This is maaaaybe premature there, ESPN. Maryland #1 FWIW.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Thanks to the internet, I figured out what Michigan's uniforms were modeled after.
Formation notes: Michigan spent most of the day in the 4-3 under. They did not flip the line much—just a couple times. Michigan State had a few plays where they'd move their strength three(!) times that seemed designed to work this tendency, but M didn't bite.
When they went to nickel it was Avery, not Johnson, as M went for more of a pass-cover look. They also brought out the 46 bear D from time to time, mostly as a second-half adjustment.
Substitution notes: Nothing too unusual at this point. Woolfolk got his customary first series and then sat after letting Martin behind him and giving up the edge on an outside run; Countess replaced him.
The line rotation was a bit tighter in this game, probably because there weren't a lot of plays in the second half. Campbell, Black, and Brink rotated in.
Kovacs, Gordon, Ryan, and Demens were constants. I'm not sure but I think RVB was also on the field for every snap.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O37||1||10||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||--||Inc|
|Winged high. Looked like Woolfolk(+0.5) had this handled to the point where Kovacs could come in and make a tackle after a minimal gain.|
|O37||2||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Ryan||21|
|Just a simple inside zone on which there is no edge because Ryan(-2) got cut to the ground massively; RVB(-1) gave too much ground on the outside and Demens(-1) also got cut; into the secondary. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) misses a tackle, giving up another five or so before Kovacs and Woolfolk can get there.|
|Blitz gets Demens(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but not quick enough to prevent a throw; Martin just outruns Woolfolk(-2, cover -2)—live it looked like he was in molasses—to the point where he's multiple yards behind when the ball gets there. Martin drops it.|
|M42||2||10||Ace trips||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Van Bergen||3|
|Again trying the edge... at least I think. The cutback that develops here is pretty dangerous in its own right. Ryan(+1) keeps contain and forces the play away from the overloaded WR side; Martin(+0.5) is flowing down behind the play, forcing it yet further behind, and then there's just Van Bergen(+1), who beat a cut and is also coming down the line... and air. Hawthorne(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) are getting blocked out of either side of the play here, so without RVB this is a big gainer.|
|M39||3||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||5||Out||Avery||8|
|Avery(-1, cover -1) beat on the out after Michigan showed man on the motion. No time for any pressure to get there.|
|M31||1||10||Diamond screen||Nickel press||Pass||N/A||WR screen||Avery||6|
|Michigan still pointing to each other as the ball is snapped; not ready. Avery(-1) is picked up by Cunningham and basically chucked inside the hashes. A similarly slow-reacting Floyd(-1) is kicked inside and this nothing play gets a chunk.|
|M25||2||4||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Woolfolk||12|
|I was mad at Roh live but I don't think this is really his fault since they have Kovacs overhanging and the DL going under. He's doubled the whole play and eventually blown off the line, but he took two people. Cunningham cracks down on Kovacs, sealing the edge guy... except Woolfolk(-2, tackling -1) should be watching this develop, which he is. He does a terrible job of recognition, lets Baker outside of him, and gives up the first down. Marlin Jackson makes this a TFL. As soon as that WR motions inside he's giving it away, man, and if he's going on a pass route it's a drag away from you on a waggle. You have to be hard on the corner here. Also Hawthorne(-1) got absorbed and erased. They do not make plays like we see the MSU LBs making.|
|M13||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Roh||12|
|Again telegraphed with motion, an offset FB, and Cunningham tight to the line—Michigan does not respond. Roh(-2) instantly sealed by the motioning TE, so there's no delay for the pullers. Hawthorne(-1) runs right into Cunningham; done. Demens(-1) trips over a prone guy who was trying to block Hawthorne; Kovacs(-1) runs out to the edge and gets chopped to the ground. Gordon comes over to tackle at the one.|
|M1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||Run||N/A||Iso||--||1|
|They get it. Terrible camera angle and no replay so I can't really tell why this is so easy; I usually don't minus unsuccessful goal line plays anyway because the odds are so stacked against you.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 5 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun trips bunch||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Flare screen||Van Bergen||4|
|Morgan in for Hawthorne, Countess for Woolfolk. Basically a replay of the diamond screen w/ the receiver arriving after the snap. RVB(+1) is playside; he reads the flare and the attempted cut block by the tackle and shoots out on the edge. Ryan(+1) gets the edge on Martin and drive him back a ways, forcing the cutback into Van Bergen. Martin can spin past the tackle because Demens(-0.5) went into a pass drop and got there late.|
|O36||2||6||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Morgan||9|
|Roh gets outside for force it back. Martin(-1) is single blocked effectively, getting shoved downfield by one guy... who is holding him pretty blatantly, but no call. Results based charting. Morgan(-1) runs up and gets cut to the ground by the TE; Martin falls over it. Demens can't get to the play because Martin was single blocked and gave ground. He manages to ankle tackle as Baker leaps Morgan.|
|O45||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||5||PA Hitch||Countess||Inc|
|No pressure(-1) as Cousins can sit and survey; Cunningham open(cover -1) in front of Countess; dropped.|
|O45||2||10||I-form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||End around||Black||6|
|Cool play with the WR coming in motion, then orbiting back on the snap to take an end around snap after the RB runs a dive fake. Looks a lot like power as the backside G pulls but then he heads outside. This basically works; Black(-2) sucks inside, going after Cousins, and is out of the play. Kovacs(+1) avoids a cut and stays outside. Morgan(+1) reads the play and gets out to take on the pulling G's block; those two combine to force a cutback that should be for nothing but isn't because Black's not there. Morgan comes off to tackle; Black arrives later to help.|
|M49||3||4||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel press||Pass||N/A||Drag||Floyd||3|
|Michigan reveals both man and a blitz as Ryan goes in motion with the TE. Really wish they had checks for this—RR never ran motion because teams would screw with your head by having a check to another defense if you went in motion. Michigan just appears to run it. MSU runs mesh at man, and the two mesh WRs pick each other off. This bumps Cunningham off his route; still complete but Floyd(+1, tackling +1) takes advantage, tackling on the catch and only giving ground when an OL impacts him from behind.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Martin||4|
|Again offset, again motioning the TE outside of Roh. This time MSU fans the TE; Roh(-0.5), conscious of the previous play on which he got killed, aggressively tries to get outside. The FB redirects outside to block him. Heininger(-1) is handled by a momentary double and Demens is again given no shot. Martin(+1) fights through his block to flow down the line and tackle, preventing this from breaking bigger. Hawthorne(+0.5) did a good job to hold up to his block and force the play back inside where Martin could tackle.|
|O14||2||6||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Heininger||-1|
|Before MSU sets a TE lines up to one side, then shoots to the other side of the line. He sets; other TE goes in motion. The TE who originally moved now comes off the line and motions back to where he started. In short: MSU went from balanced to two TEs left to two TEs right, with the last motion into an offset FB. Michigan is trying to use that bear front and moves around a ton to get it set up. After all that, a TFL. Heininger(+2) and Roh(+2) get off the ball quickly, driving their blockers into the backfield. Heininger gets so deep Baker trips over his blocker; Roh is there to clean up in the backfield after the bounce necessitated by the penetration.|
|O13||3||7||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Hawthorne||16|
|Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) goes for a Cunningham head fake and hops outside, opening up the slant. Pressure was getting there, so if this is not there strong chance of issues in the backfield for State.|
|O29||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||4|
|Brink in at SDE; MSU runs at him. He gives ground(-1) badly, ending up pancaked away from the POA. This erases Hawthorne. Martin(+2) runs through the center like he is not there, getting into the hole despite being down-blocked. This is not supposed to happen. If Demens(-0.5) can stand up the guard Baker has nowhere to go; he comes up hard to the outside and ends up getting pushed past the play. G falls forward and Baker goes with him as Martin tackles.|
|O33||2||6||I-Form||4-3 over||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||3|
|Over because they shift the strength and Michigan doesn't flip all over the place. They run power again, this time at the weakside. Hawthorne does a better job with this than he has in the past—instead of moving directly at the LOS he appears to read the G pull and shuffles playside. Ryan is blitzing on the snap and pulls the FB block; Demens(+0.5) either reads it quickly or is also blitzing and peels off the pulling G; he maintains leverage. Hawthorne(+0.5) is in the right spot to tackle; he does so. Baker falls forward. RVB(+0.5) took a double without allowing someone to pop out on Hawthorne, thus providing the free hitter.|
|O36||3||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Dumpoff||Kovacs||Inc|
|Michigan sends a couple delayed blitzers, one Kovacs from the S spot, one Demens. Demens is not relevant. Blitz gets Kovacs(+1, pressure/RPS +1) in alone, forcing Cousins to adjust because Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in Cunningham's pocket on the hitch he wants at the sticks. Plan B is a dumpoff to a releasing RB that would go a long way if complete but is high. I don't think it can be complete since Ryan(+1) is in the lane after chucking the guy and almost gets a hand on it despite it being way overthrown. Batted if accurate.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 9 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O5||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-2|
|O3||1||12||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Morgan||4|
|Ryan(+1) does a good job of constricting the hole here; RVB(+0.5) is doubled and gives a little ground but not much. Demens(+0.5) hits the narrow hole, getting kicked outside by the pulling G; free hitter is Morgan(-1), who is late. His tackle is more of a catch, allowing Baker to fall forward when the rest of the line had set this up for no gain.|
|O7||2||8||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Zone stretch||Roh||5|
|Cunningham motions in to set the edge. Roh(+1) beats the TE outside, forcing Bell to cut up. Morgan(-1) runs down the line and gets cut to the ground. That mess causes Campbell to fall over the bodies; an overhanging Kovacs(+1) banged Cunningham in an attempt to get outside, read the cutback, and disconnects to tackle(+1). He gets run over but hangs on.|
|O12||3||3||Shotgun empty||Nickel press||Penalty||N/A||Delay||--||-5|
|This was about to be nerve-wracking as M again put everyone within five yards of the LOS. Instead it's a friendly yellow flag.|
|O7||3||8||Shotgun trips bunch||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flare screen||Avery||3|
|Yeah... screen. Avery(+2, cover +1, tackling +1) reads the flare and bugs out for the sideline, beating Cunningham to the spot and shooting past him. He's off balance from a bump but keeps his feet and tackles by himself; Countess comes up to help.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 2:23 in half, so keep that in mind.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O5||1||10||I-form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||3|
|Trying to pop it outside again; Ryan(+1) gets upfield and outside of the block from the TE—who may have set up too far inside—to force it back; with the puller headed way outside this is two for one. Demens(+1) is out on this play at the LOS well before the ball gets there; he takes on the FB block and makes an ankle tackle as Baker moves past the LOS; Gordon(+0.5) filled quickly to help. Hawthorne is back in; he was all backside despite the pulling G.|
|O8||2||7||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Martin||9|
|Wow. Martin(-1) caved in by a double team. Heininger(-1) easily controlled by a single block; Hawthorne is the guy in the gap that forms but it's a real big gap and he's got a blocker coming into him; would be tough for him to do much here. Kovacs comes down to fill.|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun empty||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Demens||7|
|Michigan playing soft as they try to bleed the clock down with a lot of yards to go. Demens lets this completion happen; he does tackle basically on the catch. Basically fine given the situation.|
|O24||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||6||Drag||--||11|
|Demens over the center and Avery coming down to blitz. So here's a difference: two minute drill for MSU. Cousins signals for snap. Center head down, head up, Avery comes down... beat... snap. Hawthorne bugs out for the hash as Michigan sends six, MSU runs a little drag, wide open, first down. (Cover -1, RPS -1)|
|O35||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Hitch||Countess||9|
|Countess(-0.5, cover -1) beaten too easily here, giving up nine yards and OOB, only able to shove the guy after the catch.|
|O44||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||6||Throaway||Avery||Inc|
|Bizarre: same exact play by M, same huge hole in the middle of the D. No one there to catch the drag so Cousins, spooked, chucks it OOB. Avery(+0.5) timed it a bit better and is flying across the LOS at the snap. (pressure +1) The stunting DE was getting in as Cousins threw; he didn't have time to let these routes develop. RPS +1.|
|O44||3||1||Ace trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Broken play||--||0|
|RB does not go the right way. Cousins tries to scramble for it and is hacked down.|
|Drive Notes: Half, 7-7, EOH|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O46||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Demens||16|
|Odd backside double of Heininger gets him off the ball but does not get anyone onto Hawthorne. Assuming this is meant to cut back; it does not because Martin(+1) blows up his block into the backfield; RVB(+0.5) also got his guy well back; Baker forced into a narrow gap between the two. Martin can't quite disconnect to tackle. And then... nothing. Demens(-2) sits and takes a block two yards downfield, failing to get outside and losing leverage. Hawthorne(-1) inexplicably slows up as he scrapes. Despite having a free hitter with no one on him Michigan gives up a gain because of very bad LB play. Countess(+0.5) comes up very well, making a tackle attempt four yards downfield; Baker runs through it. Ryan(-1, tackling -1) now has a shot to end the play but can't; Baker runs through that tackle as he gets shoved by an OL.|
|M38||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Hawthorne||4|
|Again offset FB/narrow WR implying an outside run. M gets outside and MSU goes up the middle. Backside DL are going away from the playside; Martin(-1) gets sealed out of the hole and lets a guy out on Demens; Heininger(-1) gets single blocked. Big gap. LBs do well considering; Demens(+1) gets inside of his blocker, convincing Baker to cut to the backside of the Hawthorne(+1) block; Hawthorne disconnects to tackle(+1). Think Baker cost himself yards. RPS -1.|
|M34||2||6||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Heininger||4|
|Jet sweep end around threat. Heininger(+1) blasts past a downblock attempt and gets upfield into the pulling G. Forced cutback. Baker makes it smoothly. Martin(-0.5) got shoved by the C and then hit by a G, he is off balance as Baker hits it up and can't tackle. Hawthorne is free now because of the cutback and comes down to fill. He does a mediocre job. RVB(+0.5) is slanting down from the backside and still helps tackle. Actually, he initiates the tackle. RVB's best trait is it's impossible to get him on the ground. He does not fall over, ever.|
|M30||3||2||Ace 3-wide||Nickel press||Run||N/A||End around||Gordon||3|
|This is just tough to defend in man; Floyd is hauling after Martin in motion but has no shot at getting there with all the traffic he has to deal with. So it's Cunningham and Nichol, seniors, blocking Countess(-0.5) and Avery(-0.5), and that works out about how you'd expect. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fills really well but there's no way to hold this down. RPS -1.|
|M27||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA deep hitch||Countess||Inc|
|Ludicrously tight camera angle means we know none of the things. Four man rush gets nowhere near Cousins(pressure -2); I sympathize after all the running. On replay, Countess(+1, cover +1) does get a hand in and seems to help this incompletion. Wind probably gave him the time but he got there.|
|M27||2||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter pitch||Countess||20|
|Power action with a counter toss gets Baker the edge. Black(-0.5) holds up and runs at it but runs too far upfield and doesn't string this as far as he could. Countess(-2) gets way too far inside and gives up the edge; he actually runs into Hawthorne, who's doing a decent job to set up and maybe be in position for a tackle at the numbers. Instead Countess is chucked into his legs. Gordon(-2, tackling -1) then misses at the sticks. Baker steps out at the 22; this is not called; it is reviewed and still left to stand. WTF? Refs -2.|
|M7||1||G||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Roh||-3|
|Hawthorne comes down to be the extra lineman in the 46. He takes on a TE block, but the key to the play is Roh(+2) shooting into the backfield, standing up the FB in the backfield, causing Bell to stop, and allowing Ryan(+0.5) to rumble in from behind to tackle. RPS +1.|
|M10||2||G||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Play action on second and goal from the ten, okay. Michigan covers(+2) everyone and Roh(+1, pressure +1) releases as the TE releases him, getting in on Cousins after leaping to dissuade an early throw. Cousins sails one out of the endzone.|
|M10||3||G||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 nickel||Pass||3||Hitch||Floyd||10|
|Michigan sets up a picket fence with just three rushers. Floyd(-2, tackling -2) manages to miss a tackle in this situation; Martin is about six inches inside the line as he turns upfield and barely manages to get the ball across the line as Hawthorne bangs him to the ground. Guh.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 11 min 3rd Q. MSU gets the next drive at their 20 because this is the punt that's dying at the three when Furman takes it into the endzone.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Roh||15|
|BWS picture paged this; it is all alignment. They run outside; down blocks on Roh and Morgan are hugely advantageous. Morgan(-1) is looking in the backfield instead of his blocker and gets blown up; Kovacs(-1) is cut to the ground too easily. Roh(-1) also sealed. Baker into the secondary, where Gordon(-1, tackling -1) basically whiffs but miraculously punches the football loose as Baker heads for paydirt. Turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-14, 6 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O39||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Roh||2|
|Same exact play. Roh(+1) strings it to the edge this time, eventually getting the second puller to the ground, two for one. Morgan finally getting out rapidly(+0.5). He ends up taking another two for one as one of the pullers cuts him as Cunningham cracks back on him after shoving Kovacs. This plus the Roh play means Kovacs(+0.5) is alone on the edge. He makes the tackle.|
|O41||2||8||Diamond screen||Okie press?||Pass||N/A||Ref debacle||--||Inc|
|Wow. This is OBVIOUSLY a backwards pass. It's not even close. Martin drops it and instead of calling the "free touchdown" the refs blow it dead. This is inexcusable. It is not close at all. I deleted fourteen swear words in this box.|
|O41||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Drag||Ryan||14|
|All Ryan. Mattison has a great call on for what MSU is running: a triple blitz up the middle with both DEs falling back to ride the obvious mesh response to this play. Roh stares straight at the TE and rides him on his mesh; Ryan(-2, cover -2) looks in the backfield, lets Cunningham through free, and gives up the conversion because Cousins can hit his WR without the jam. Everyone else is in man; Ryan is in zone. The guy is a missed assignment factory. RPS +2; this was a fantastic call that would have gotten MSU off the field if executed. BWS picture pages.|
|M46||1||10||Ace||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Fly||Gordon||Inc|
|All day on the PA (pressure -2); Coverage is spectacular (cover +3) and Cousins has no choice but to chuck it vaguely in the direction of a double-covered Cunningham. Gordon(+1) in better position that Cunningham if the ball is accurate; it's not. I assume this is a throwaway.|
|M46||2||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||5|
|Martin(-2) destroyed by a double, blown off the ball; he spins outside. Gross. RVB(+1) chucks his blocker to the ground; Morgan(+1) takes the MSU fullback and plants him backwards, forcing Baker back into the attacking RVB. Delayed, Baker is gang-tackled by Floyd and Demens. Wow... Martin not having a good game at all.|
|M41||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||6|
|Zone blitz sends five w/ Avery getting in clean (+0.5, pressure +1); Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) is too far off to prevent this completion. Maybe that's harsh; this is probably a route you can just complete all the time if you are good enough.|
|M35||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||5|
|Same thing as the previous pitch sweep from a formation perspective; this shoots Roh way outside. Morgan(+0.5) reads the path of the RB and halts his outside move, picking off a blocker and constricting the hole; Heininger(+0.5) is blown back by a double but splits it when the other guy pops off on Demens. Demens pops the guy about two yards downfield; Bell falls forward for three more. Sort of got half-RPSed here; tough to blame the players on this.|
|M30||2||5||Ace||4-3 over||Pass||5||TE screen||--||15|
|Michigan now flipping on MSU strength changes. This ends up with M in an over front with Kovacs coming down. MSU goes TE screen; live this looked like a block in the back on Kovacs but on replay this is legit. No angle shown gives an idea who might be responsible, but this was a big gain without an obvious way to prevent it: RPS -1.|
|M15||1||10||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Black||2|
|Because of the bear Black(+2) can flare out; he does. He gets outside of the TE, chucking him inside, and absorbs the FB block for a 2-for-1. This means no one is on Kovacs(-0.5); he attacks only to see his tackle(-1) run through; three yards later the cavalry arrives. RPS +1.|
|M13||2||8||Shotgun trips TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flat||Floyd||13|
|Floyd in motion, revealing man; when Martin comes back the other way he reacts late and slows for no reason, making this ridiculously open. -2, cover -2, RPS -2, good lord. Even if he had played this well M was dead because they showed man. Floyd barely getting outside the tackle box by the time the ball was thrown was just the cherry on top.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, EO3Q. Awful call, bad play by Ryan, seeya.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O15||1||10||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||6 (Pen -8)|
|Late move from Morgan to the bear spot. MSU runs power away from it. Heininger(-1) blown up by a double. Roh taken by pulling G; he restricts the hole but Heininger is gone. Since they're running weak and M has an extra guy in the box there is no one to block one LB. Demens(-1) is unblocked and flows but late; he contacts Baker three yards downfield and gives up a lot more as his tackle is run through. MSU G picks up a holding call for stupidly reaching his arms around Martin when he was not relevant to the play.|
|O8||1||17||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Gordon||-1|
|Michigan blitzes from the slot, getting Gordon(+0.5, RPS +1) in past the attempted block by Nichol; this cuts off the outside thanks to RVB(+1) thumping a double team backwards, pancaking the TE. Ryan runs up and gets cut to the ground again, but RB has to cut back because of the blitz. Heininger(+1) runs down the line and avoids a cut to tackle.|
|O7||2||18||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||--||Inc|
|An extremely unconvincing fake to the FB leaves an unblocked Roh on the edge; Heininger also starts running up at Cousins. With coverage(+1) good after the weird fake, Cousins chucks it away. Stupid playcall. (RPS +1)|
|Heavy rush from Martin(+1) pushes a G back and forces Cousins to step up quickly; RVB spins away to pursue and Cousins falls. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 10 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O21||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||End around||Floyd||8|
|Morgan(-1) sucks in on the dive fake; Gordon is blocked out of the play by Cunningham; Floyd(0) does not come up on the edge until Martin is already well downfield. He punches the ball out as he tackles so he gets his minus back.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-21, 9 min 4th Q|
|O19||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||3|
|End around fake to the other side of the line. RVB(+1) holds up okay against a double; Ryan(+1) constricts the hole and Demens(+1) hits the lead blocker at the LOS; there is no gap for Baker and Demens can tackle; Morgan(-1) sat and ate a block so if this is a bigger hole Michigan has problems.|
|O22||2||7||I-Form||46 bear||Run||N/A||Counter pitch||Roh||3|
|Roh(+1) reads the FB coming his way and manages to string the play out all the way to the sideline.|
|O25||3||4||Shotgun empty||Nickel press||Pass||4||TE out||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Hey! We time the snap! RVB(+2, pressure +2) is moving as the ball goes as MSU's line just busts spectacularly, letting three guys in; RVB is the fastest and hits Cousins, forcing an inaccurate pass to an open TE out.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-21, 4 min 4th Q. Next MSU drive is running the clock out, EOChart.|
Well, at least the touchdowns weren't free.
Yeah. Woolfolk almost gave up a free one on the first drive and as BWS explained, the fumble that opened one of MSU's second-half drives was almost a free touchdown until Baker got the ball stripped on a tenuous, crappy tackle attempt by Gordon. But there's no comparison between this year and last. Wind had something to do with it; so did Greg Mattison.
How were they able to run outside so effectively?
For context we should look at the—
|Van Bergen||9||1||8||Does not fall over. Needs to teach Ryan about cut blocks.|
|Martin||5.5||6.5||-1||Blown off the ball by doubles multiple times. Sad face.|
|Roh||8||3.5||4.5||Adjusted well after initial problems getting outside.|
|Heininger||4.5||4||0.5||Did okay; still single blocked effectively too many times.|
|Black||2||2.5||-0.5||Didn't play much this week.|
|Campbell||-||-||-||Did not register.|
|TOTAL||33||18.5||14.5||Just an okay day.|
|Demens||4.5||6.5||-2||Michigan's linebackers are not nearly as reactive as MSU/ND, even Northwestern, and it costs them.|
|Ryan||7.5||5||2.5||Actually was not much of a problem after the first argh cut block.|
|Hawthorne||2||4.5||-2.5||Unable to use his speed effectively, pulled.|
|Morgan||4||5||-1||Confused but more effective getting to the ball.|
|TOTAL||18||21||-3||WLB an issue; Demens not doing as well as expected.|
|Floyd||2||6||-4||Missed tackle on third and goal a killer.|
|Woolfolk||0.5||4||-3.5||Two very bad plays on first drive and then bench.|
|Kovacs||3.5||2.5||1||Tough for him to tackle Baker; not pressed in coverage.|
|T. Gordon||3||4||-1||No fumble plus this time because he whiffed a tackle and got lucky instead of taking a guy to the ground in such away the ball comes out.|
|Countess||1.5||3||-1.5||Not Woodson yet.|
|TOTAL||13.5||22||-8.5||Chunks of running yards due to poor corner support.|
|Pressure||8||5||3||Not a lot of deep passes this week because of wind.|
|Coverage||9||12||-3||That's not too bad against a senior QB.|
|Tackling||5||8||38%||Baker Baker Baker (also Martin)|
|RPS||8||6||2||While MSU took advantage of M weakness I didn't think that was a structural issue.|
Our sanity check: MSU had just 333 yards but had a somewhat limited number of snaps (63), averaging 5.2 a shot. MSU averaged 5.5 YPC and their turnovers were only vaguely forced, so… yeah. The above seems about right. Michigan was a little disappointing on the line, a little disappointing at LB, and had major issues with members of the secondary tackling.
One surprise: neither Roh nor Ryan took the brunt. Both had decent days; the problems outside were often on corners, safeties, or linebackers. Roh got sealed a couple times but also did things like this:
I feel bad for taking a couple clips designed to show problems with Ryan when he was the only linebacker to finish positive.
…but you did take a couple clips.
Yeah. So caveats apply here. Problem one is the thing that makes me literally scream "AAARGH RYAN" during games when I see it happen. The guy takes cut blocks like Glass Joe takes a punch:
There are other problems on this play, most prominently Demens getting slashed to the ground just like Ryan does; RVB and Martin then tumble over the fallen OL. Gordon also does not make a swift fill. But if Ryan is on the edge here he can make a tackle attempt or force Baker further outside and give his D a chance to recover—Gordon is probably five yards closer to the LOS and in less space if the edge is held.
That's happened a half-dozen times or so and Michigan has gotten gashed outside because of it. He suffered this fate a couple more times but got away with it.
Problem two is just regular freshman stuff like running zone when everyone else is running man. BWS picture-paged this play for a fuller explanation*; here's the video:
That is a great playcall. Michigan blitzes up the middle, gets a free runner, and has two guys dropping off into mesh-annihilating inside man coverage; MSU runs mesh. This play perfectly beats MSU's; it's the definition of RPS+2. This should be an incompletion or a sack and a punt but Ryan runs zone coverage and Cunningham gets open.
I have a dream that someday Michigan will not have freshmen on the field. That day is 2013 at the earliest.
All that said, Ryan came out positive for constricting a bunch of power plays and not being exploitable on the edge after the first drive. That spot has come a long way from early in the season when Ryan and Beyer were taking turns being in the wrong place on power.
*[I strongly disagree with the conclusion there. The play is more about the dangers of freshmen than zone blitzing—it is clear that Roh and Ryan are supposed to get inside of presumed drag routes by the TE and Cunningham. Roh does this beautifully and if Ryan had done the same not-very-difficult thing Cousins has nowhere to go before Morgan annihilates him. The play is specifically designed to get Cousins looking at mesh—blitz up the middle—without opening it up.]
The outside running, then?
I don't think the guys on the line played egregiously.
Michigan got formation'd quite a bit. This was the setup on that Baker run that was a long gainer until he fumbled:
This screams outside run to the right: offset FB, TE lined up a couple yards outside the tackle, WR tight to the LOS. This makes it easy for the offense to seal Roh and Morgan by blocking down. It's up to the linebackers to recognize this and haul ass or slip blocks and then it's up to the secondary to come down hard on that; they didn't. On this play Morgan is looking at the backfield and gets blindsided by a WR; by the time Baker bursts up the line most of the DL is closer to the sideline than he is. This is a pitch, too, so Gordon needs to be reading this faster.
It's a combination of things but the primary thing is the linebackers are hesitant and that makes them late when plays go outside.
What's wrong with Martin?
I don't know. I saw him blown off the ball in this game several times, something that does not happen. That could be your toughness issue.
Why can't we jump snaps like MSU did?
There were a couple instances on which Michigan did but I think that's part of football. The frequency with which MSU got M is unusual. One difference I did notice is that Michigan's standard count was much quicker than MSU's. Here's a shotgun play on MSU's ultimately unsuccessful first-half two minute drill:
Head down, head up, pause, see LB lined up over your face, snap. Michigan tips the blitz and MSU hits them with an easy drag.
What is the deal with the linebackers?
They seem uncertain of themselves. While I keep moaning about over-aggressive opponent LBs that are exploitable if we hit them with play action—big if—that may be a perception magnified by Michigan's slow-ass LBs. I mean, what is this?
Demens lets the guy outside and an unblocked Hawthorne slows up as if a cutback is coming when a cutback is definitely not coming. We saw them similarly unable to read outside plays against Northwestern. WLB was always going to be a sore spot but I thought Demens would be more of a playmaker than he is. Maybe that's yet more hesitancy born of constantly changing systems.
Was that a lateral?
Holy hell, yes. It was a full yard backwards and there's a ref right there who blows it dead. That is a free touchdown on a drive that would end up in Michigan's endzone. That is the biggest, easiest, most awful call that's gone against Michigan in a long time.
It's hard to find anyone who played really well but Van Bergen was the best player on the day, consistently making good reads and staying on his feet.
No one was awful, either, but Hawthorne played badly enough to get yanked for a similarly mediocre Morgan; Martin had his worst day that can't be blamed on an injury in a long, long time.
What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?
I don't think we learned a whole lot on a day when the wind and Michigan's offense made the opponent even more conservative than they usually are. There are obvious edge issues, but we knew that. Ryan is an erratic freshman slowly improving. Knew that. WLB weak spot, secondary vastly improved but still just okay, etc.
Two things on the line: Roh appears to have solidly reclaimed his starting spot from Black and Martin's play was a little disturbing considering the Iowa/Nebraska/OSU B1G MANBALL lineup coming later in the season.
Opening remarks: “First I have to give Mark and his staff credit -- and their team. They outcoached us and outplayed us. We have to do a much better job with coaching this football team in a lot of ways. Our kids, I think they fought when they were down. I thought they responded well. To be honest, I don’t think they ever thought they were going to lose the game until the game was over.”
Was Denard taken out because he was hurt or was it for another reason? “He got beat up a little bit, yeah.”
What happened on that fourth-and-one call? “We’ve gotten many first downs with that play. Same play. The guy jumps, we send the one guy in motion. We’ve gotten touchdowns, too. This was just an extension of that play.”
Looked like you were trying to call timeout. Did you see something you didn’t like? “Yeah, I saw the 25-second clock rolling to zero. I think we got away with one, to be honest with you.”
What do you think about how Denard played? “He made some things happen. And there were a couple times -- he always plays excited with a lot of energy. On the interception, I don’t know what he saw. I think he held it in there.”
On the play Denard got injured, was that a cheap shot? “Oh I have no clue. I didn’t see it, to be honest with you. My eyes were down the field.”
Was Denard playing too excited a problem? “I don’t think so. I thought our kids prepared well all week. I think we had the two penalties in the first half for the delays. Those are some communication things that we have to do a better job with.”
How much more are you going to have to get out of your running back group? “Well, to get it out of our running back group, we have to get it out of our front first. I think there’s some opportunities we missed a little bit, but at the same time I don’t know how much movement we got consistently at the line of scrimmage.”
Was the number of personal foul penalties they committed over the line for you? “I don’t know. Shoot, I’m worried about Michigan.”
Jordan said he thought MSU was more physical and beat your team up. “I don’t know if we got beat up. I think they were physical, and I think this game always is physical.”
Denard’s injury -- is it serious? “I don’t know what it is yet.”
Can you talk about philosophy of alternating Devin and Denard? “Yeah, we thought we may do some of that, and part of what pushed it over a little more was that it was a windy day, and I think Devin at times can throw the ball a little more accurately.”
How do you expect your players to react to this? “I expect them to act like a Michigan football team, and that means they’re going to come to work.”
What happened on the first series of the second half on the kickoff and their first possession? “I don’t think we tackled well at all … We didn’t tackle very well, they executed the drive. I think two third down conversions in there, maybe three, that you’ve got to be in the position to stop it. And then the play at the end, when they scored, I don’t know if you could be in a better defensive call.”
Do you think your offense was a little too creative at points? “No. I don’t know about that. I think there’s some elements in there -- when Denard carries the jet sweep around there, he’s pretty dangerous. He’s about two steps from breaking both of them for home runs. I don’t think so.”
They brought a lot of pressure. What were they doing that was so successful? “Well they were overloading you a little bit. Mark [Dantonio] did a good job. Mark is a good defensive coach. Believe me, his fingerprints are all over that defense. They overloaded us a little bit. They hit their timing. They did a nice job of jumping snap counts. I think they did things the way you’re supposed to.”
Is Taylor Lewan healthy? “There’s not a healthy guy in our whole locker room. Everybody’s beat up. That’s just part of football. I think this bye week, it’s probably at a good time.”
Were they beat up because of today? “They’ve been beat up all -- it’s just part of football.”
In hindsight, would you have called the fourth-and-one play differently? “You sneak it, you run the power play -- multiple things that you could have done. We’ve been very successful in the last two years with that same play.”
Was that your call or Al’s call? “Al makes the call. I’m the one that said, ‘Go for it.’ ”
Any trend to the incompletions? “I think there’s more competition probably at the line of scrimmage, when you look at receivers getting off and running routes. I don’t think we ran bad routes. I won’t know that until I watch tape.”
Did you prepare your players for the dirty play? “No. I don’t know how they played dirty. They had some personal fouls and late hits on the quarterback. You can get those all the time.”
William Gholston threw a punch at Lewan. “I didn’t see it.”
What was with the kickoff to start the second half? Were you thinking about an onside kick? “No. We were trying to squib it because we didn’t think we would get it exactly where we wanted it depth wise, and he probably hit it not as well as he probably would have liked to hit it.”
Whose decision was it to break out the jerseys? “Well it was neat. It was ‘74, ‘75? We were white on white. There’s a lot of decision-makers.”
You said you thought this team was overrated. What came out from this game to give you proof of that? “Well, besides losing? I think they were close to 200 yards rushing the football. We had 82. That’s pretty much it.”
Is this bye week a good thing for your team? “Yeah from a health standpoint, it is.”
How resilient is this team? Were heads hanging in the locker room? “They need to feel this one. We all need to feel this one for a while. But we’ll turn the page.”
What was the reaction to losing to MSU for the fourth year in a row? “Not good.”
What happened out there? “They did what we thought they were going to do. They came out and pounded us with the football. They were the better team. You have to give them some credit … So we’re going to take this and regroup from there.”
After a loss like this, are you glad you have two weeks off or do you want to play again right away? “Um, physically, it’s probably a good thing, but mentally we’re ready to move on to the next one and looking forward to the next game. So it’s probably a good thing that we have a bye week and we can physically get healthy, but at the same time. I’m hungry for the next one.”
Was there any adjustment they made at halftime on offense? “No, I think they stuck to their game plan. They just ran the football.”
After you recovered the fumble, did you think the comeback was on? “Yeah, the whole game we thought we were going to win until the two zeros were on the clock. The whole time we thought we were going to win the game.”
Do you think they were tougher? “I think they were definitely more physical. They pounded us. They beat us up. But we’re going to take it and we’re going to improve from here. But like I said, you have to give them a lot of credit.”
Is this team different from the past few years? Are you better prepared to deal with this loss without sliding downhill? “No doubt. I think it’s easy to say, it’s the same Michigan team the last two years, but I have no doubt in my mind that we’re not. We’re going to improve, we’re going to learn from this game, and we’re going to win.”
How difficult is it for you say that they were more physical and they beat you up? “It’s tough. They just ran the ball downhill. It’s nothing that we weren’t expecting, and we didn’t do a good enough job today.”
Were they chippier than you thought they might be? “No. I’ve played in this game before, so I know how the game goes.”
Was their success running the ball more because of their line or because of their running backs? “It was collectively as a defense -- we didn’t execute. I have to watch the film, but I can put money on that guys weren’t where they were supposed to be, and guys simply weren’t executing what we need to do and weren’t playing Michigan defense.”
How tough is it to swallow this loss? “It’s tough. We don’t want that to happen. With any team, especially with this team. But you have to give them credit. They played well today, and they’re a good football team. So plain and simple, today just didn’t go our way.”
Can you take anything good from today? “Not right now, no. But when we look at the film -- today is going to be tough, but we’ll stop and bounce back. The thing about this team I know for a fact is that this team is going to bounce back. Guys are hungry for the next game. That’s the biggest difference in this team amongst other things. This team’s hungry and ready to go.”
Do you feel like they beat you up? “I feel good. I’m not beat up. I don’t think they beat us up. When I think of beat up, I think bullied. We just didn’t execute. We just didn’t play Michigan defense. We didn’t play the way we needed to play from start to finish. Just going to have to watch the film and see what happens.”
Do you think they played dirty today? “I mean, we knew what type of game this was going to be. It was going to be a tough, physical game, and coach talked about keeping our poise and composure as a football team. So I think we did a good job on that side of it, and we just have to do a better job with taking coaching and executing what the coaches tell us to do.”
Were you expecting it to be like this? “I mean, who doesn’t know what this type of game is. It’s a tough, physical game, period. It’s an in-state rival, and it’s big for both teams. That’s what it’s all about.”
You think they won with class? “I don’t worry about that. They have a right to celebrate. They won. They’re excited. I tip my hat to them.”
What makes you so certain you will bounce back unlike previous years? “Just everything. I think that’s something where you have to be in the locker room and know that. It’s something I can’t really explain, but I know that we have great leadership on this team. We have a bye week coming up, and I know guys are going to be hungry. Tomorrow we’re going to be in there watching film, looking to see what we can do to get better. The seniors and these leaders are going to get this team ready.”
Anything they did offensively surprise you? “No. They executed their game plan and pretty much that’s what we practiced. I just don’t think that on our side of it, we did what we needed to do.”
Do you feel like your offense put you guys in a hole? “I mean, yeah, you never know how a game’s going to go. We’re playing for those guys they’re playing for us. We have each other’s backs. Whatever happens in a game happens. We talked about it on the sidelines -- we just have to control what we can control. We just have to do a better job of complementing each other offensively and defensively.”
When did you find out about the jerseys? “It was a surprise to us. When we came back from warmups they were in our lockers.”
What happened on the play where you were injured? “I got a little dinged up.”
Was it your decision or the coaches’ decision not to let you back in the game? “I mean, it’s always up to the trainers.”
Is it concussion-related? “No, I don’t think so.”
Was it a cheap shot? “I don’t know.”
Did you feel like they were playing dirty? “No. We were playing football. It’s a dirty game.”
Is this a game where you’re going to look back on and wonder “what if”? “Oh no. We have to move forward and we have to learn from this game. That’s the biggest thing, learn from this game and play Michigan football. The Big Ten championship’s still out there.”
On the fourth-and-one call, what were you seeing before the snap? “We had what we wanted, and we called it at the time, and we just have to execute.”
What were you supposed to look for? “I mean, if you watch the game you’ll see what I was looking for. I can’t explain it.”
Didn’t look like you had time to look for it, though. “Yeah, that was the biggest thing. We just didn’t play football.”
Did you see the corner coming? “I saw him at the last second.”
Why were you struggling throwing the football today? “No reason. Just have to make throws.”
What did you see on the pick six? “Me and Vince weren’t on the same page. It wasn’t anything we didn’t see. Just wasn’t on the same page.”
Are you worried about being able to play in two weeks due to your injury? “Oh no, we have two weeks, and our training staff is one of the best in the country, and I know they’re going to get me back.”
How difficult was it to pass with the windy conditions today? “It wasn’t that difficult. Both of us played in the same weather and the same stadium.”
Are there any plays you wish you had back? “Oh yeah. Of course through the game you’re going to have that, but you have to continue playing. Keep playing, that’s all.”
Why do you think this year’s team is different? “I mean, come on. We’re just going to be ready to fight, and we’re never going to quit. We’re never quitting. Just hold each other accountable and just go out there and play Michigan football. Just keep going.”
Did you think this fourth quarter was going to be like the fourth quarter against Notre Dame? “We had a lot of opportunities to come back in the game and keep the game in reach, and we just didn’t execute.”
10/1/2011 – Michigan 58, Minnesota 0 – 5-0, 1-0 Big Ten
In the depths of Michigan's worst season ever (if you can't divide) or in a damn long time (if you can) they travelled to the Metrodome to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan was 2-7 and without the services of their starting quarterback. Minnesota was 7-2 and in possession of a functional offense. I was posting pictures of Death because Nick Sheridan was going to play the entire game. We were going to hit rock bottom when the Gophers picked up the jug they see once a decade, if that. "Henry Kissinger" was amongst the things projected to be more fun than the Jug game.
Because football is strange, Michigan waltzed into Minneapolis and annihilated the Gophers. The final score was 29-6; total yardage was 435-188. Nick Sheridan completed 60% of his passes and almost eclipsed 7 YPA. Justin Feagin averaged 7 yards a carry.
It was a crazy exception to the nigh-unrelenting misery of 2008. Yeah, they fluked their way into a win over Wisconsin despite getting outgained by 100 yards. Minnesota was different. If you had no knowledge of the context you would have thought it was a year like any other, a Michigan team like any other. Michigan did what they do to Minnesota: beat them without a second thought.
This week multiple newspaper folk took the time to tell people the Jug doesn't matter, but when that awful Michigan team locked arms and walked over to Jon Falk to lift up the only thing they'd held onto, it mattered. Paul Bunyan, the bowl streak, most people's sanity, all of the street cred, and huge chunks of the dignity were gone. The Jug remained.
Martin, Koger, Molk, and Van Bergen were freshmen on that team. Molk started. Koger, Van Bergen, and Martin played but didn't acquire stats. Recruited by Carr, they stuck it out under Rodriguez. Many of their teammates didn't.
As a reward the four above started down a path towards the least rewarding Michigan careers in decades, through little or no fault of their own. You can win Big Ten championships with those four guys as prominent starters. You have to have other people to play football around them, though, and maybe a coach or two who can tell the difference between a stuffed beaver and a 4-3 under. Michigan didn't.
In 2008 they had little on the field and even less off it. According to John Bacon's Three and Out, Lloyd Carr signed off on Justin Boren's transfer to Ohio State and upstanding citizen Jim Tressel. Morgan Trent half-assed his way through the season and tossed bombs at Rodriguez afterwards. Toney Clemons and Greg Mathews would act as sources for the Free Press jihad shortly after the season. Given the result of that investigation it's clear they did so entirely out of spite. Brandon Minor would rail on about how leadership was going to happen in 2009 as people whispered that he was a major source of its lack in 2008. There's probably never been a more dysfunctional Michigan team, and it started from the top.
Freshmen learn from seniors. This is the way of the world. Usually they learn how to be, how to maintain the standards of the program they walked into. The four guys above did it a different way: they learned what not to do. When it came time to meet for the first time in the Hoke era, they decided not to repeat the recent past. Mike Martin:
"‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”
Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together. …
“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”
Meanwhile, Van Bergen called out the program alums who'd drifted away when times got tough. The message was clear: this is our program. We've been here for four years and gotten nothing but crap. We've paid more dues than anyone in the last 40 years of Michigan football, and now we'd like some payoff.
That payoff was going to be an Alamo Bowl at best. But the seniors' effort, Greg Mattison's expertise, Denard Robinson's existence, the Big Ten's complete horribleness, and Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe now tempt hope.
Michigan State can't run or stay within three scores of Notre Dame. Nebraska can't throw or keep a good running offense under 30 points. Iowa can't beat Iowa State. It may be a division race on par with one of those years Wake Forest won the ACC, but by God there is a tinny flimsy division championship there to be acquired. Even if it wouldn't be much—in all likelihood it would be a historical footnote after a curbstomping at the hands of Wisconsin—it would at least somewhat fulfill a promise Bo made when he arrived in 1969.
No one's deserved it more than the four guys above. It's relatively easy to be a "Michigan Man" when it's handed down to you. Koger, Martin, Molk, and Van Bergen had to figure it out on their own. They stayed, and figured it out when available evidence suggested being a Michigan Man was endorsing transfers to Free Tattoo University, telling recruits to go to Michigan State, and selling out your own program to a couple of hacks.
A few years ago on the eve of the Ohio State game that ended to that miserable 2008 season I wrote a thing about being an anchorless mid-20s person who is uncertain of where to go or who to be and is sad as a result. In that piece I envisioned Michigan's coaches telling their charges how to get out of this hole:
Some of you will stay. And you will go insane. You will work, and you will work, and we will build something here from nothing. Because, make no mistake, this is nothing. You will build something out of this. If you're a senior next year and you teach some freshman something, you will build something. If you're a freshman and you refuse to quit on your stupid decision, you will build something.
What you build will be yours. Few in the great history of his university have had that opportunity. Everything came based on what came before. They were part of a great chain, now broken.
Those of you who stay will forge a new one, starting today. When we are done we will fix the last link to the broken chain, and break the first link, and tell those who come after us to live up to it.
Whether or not Michigan manages a championship, flimsy or real, Michigan's seniors have done this. This Is Michigan again because they stayed.
Non-Bullets Of Domination
Photogallery. Via the Ann Arbor Observer and Eric Upchurch:
The two QB formation thing. So that was something. That and the double pass touchdown reminded me of that Indiana game prior to Football Armageddon (IIRC) when Michigan dumped out a zillion trick plays to force the opponent to prepare for extra stuff. I didn't like it then and hope that's not the case now, not least because after the first play the thing seemed pretty effective. Gardner implied that was not the case:
“It’s really, really dangerous. We’ve also got Fitzgerald Toussaint back there and Vincent Smith," he said. "You’re going to have to wait and see. It’s going to be pretty dangerous.”
What to call it? Hoke refused to answer a direct question about what we should call it, so it's up to us. Vincent Smith suggests "two," which is a little bland. Ace got a "diamond of doom" suggestion on Twitter; while that's catchy it's also long and jinxtastic. Naturally, Ace wants to extend it to "Denard and Devin's Diamond of Doom" because it abbreviates to DDDD and if there's one thing Ace likes it's repetitive hexadecimal numbers.
But that's long and a bit awkward. Since it's a goofy, misdirection-heavy everyone's-a-QB thing that reminds people of the Mad Magicians I propose calling it "Fritz." It's not exactly what Crisler used to do…
…but what "Fritz" lacks in outright accuracy it makes up for in Getting-Itness.
[BONUS extreme history nerd BONUS: This has set frequent correspondent John Kryk alight with references to not Crisler but Notre Dame's Frank Leahy, who deployed a T formation with a close resemblance to Fritz.
Michigan sort of ran the above. Kryk actually has a diagram in which the T looks identical to Fritz:
I'm pretty sure we'll all way too abuzz about a formation we'll see maybe a half-dozen times the rest of the season, but old-timey football is always cool to see in the flesh. It's why Georgia Tech games remain an abiding fascination.]
Why does the outside pitch not bother me so much in that formation? When we run the I-form fake-dive-to-pitch it's just asking the opposition to key on the running back flying out to the corner because Michigan never runs the dive, and even if they did defenses are like "BFD." When we ran it from Fritz it played off the earlier speed option.
Is it a tenable package against real opposition? If the wildcat can work I don't see why this can't.
Triple option? May be on the way.
Records. Some happened. Smith's touchdown cycle had not been accomplished in the modern era:
It was the first time a player has ran, thrown and passed for a score in modern Michigan football history (post-World War II).
That seemed like a given. I'm waiting for MVictors to dig up the dude who managed it in 1923, because I know it's happened and I know he will.
via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer.
Our helmets have wings… and numbers! Let's avoid the inevitable Rodriguez tradition rehash. It's already been done. Personal opinion of them: whateva. On a scale from 10 to –10 where 10 is Denard, –10 is Pop Evil, and 0 is total indifference I'm a –0.1. I'd rather not have the uniforms futzed with but the numbers have some history to them, don't look terrible, and are a minor adjustment.
I think Hoke should say he'll yank 'em if they lose, though.
On-field takeaways. Minnesota is very not good—we were playing a pretend game where the Gophers got a touchdown every time they crossed midfield and a point every time they succesfully fielded a kickoff and they still lost by 30. So disclaimers apply.
That said: Denard throwing to his receivers—and getting the opportunity to hit some short, confidence-building throws—was encouraging, as was the almost total lack of I-form even deep into the third quarter. That seems like an abandonment. If they were still working on it they would have pulled it out just to practice it, no?
Short stuff. AnnArbor.com's Kyle Mienke notes that of Michigan's first 11 passes, eight were five yards or less. He categorizes that crazy seam to Hopkins as "another was over the top to a leaking fullback," which is a goofy thing to try to lump into easy passes for Denard confidence. That was pure DO.
Patrick Omameh. Some evidence he might be struggling in the new offense: he was left on the field much longer than any of the other starters save Schofield, who was forced into the starting lineup by the Barnum injury and was granted time at tackle late.
Possible liberation society addendum. I'm so over the rollouts. It seems like the only way to get Denard Robinson pressured is to roll him out into unblocked contain defenders, which Michigan does plenty. If you leave him in the pocket people are terrified to get out of their lanes and he usually has a lot of time. If you put him on the edge against defenses keying on him he doesn't get outside and he has to make rushed throws on the move that seem to be more inaccurate than his usual ones.
I guess the rollouts do open up the throwback stuff, which has been very successful. And they did insert a heavy dose of sprint draw (AKA That Goddamned Counter Draw), something I've been pleading for since Rodriguez's arrival. So they might be developing a package there. They've got to figure out how to block it.
FWIW, I wasn't a fan of showing the sprint draw against an incompetent opponent. I'd rather Michigan's future opponents not prepare for a potentially game-breaking play. But I've got no evidence behind that.
Field goals. We haz them?
Hoke for tomorrow is getting a little ahead of itself:
It is not hard to see the qualities of Bo in Brady Hoke. At first I cringed at his seeming overconfidence, at his seeming overuse of Bo-isms, and wondered if he was trying too hard to win Michigan fans' hearts with his bravado. I don't doubt the man any longer. Brady Hoke has a Bo-like level of expectations for those he leads. He has expectations of effort, execution, and yes "toughness" that no coach since Bo has required from both his players and his staff. Hoke isn't making Michigan great again by being an innovator on either side of the ball; he is acquiring the best available parts, constructing a beast-machine, and driving the thing to eventual domination.
These feelings must be fought until the Michigan State game. ST3 goes inside the box score:
This is the section where I discuss turnovers and other momentum changing plays. There was one burst of impetus in this game. Minnesota kicked off to start the game. That's it. They were never in it. I bet that "adjusted winning percentage" diary shows us pegged at 100% for the duration.
Lloyd Brady is unstoppable.
Media as in files. Melanie Maxwell's Ann Arbor.com gallery.
WHY DID YOU GIVE ME CANCER GOLDY
i… I was just trying to field a kickoff
I think he may have altered that shot but will check. Greg also has a bunch of jug pictures. Troy Woolfolk posted this on his twitter:
The explanation: "My girl is always experimenting on me." I have no idea? I have no idea.
And finally, eagle-eyed mgouser M Fanfare caught an epic double point from Hoke:
In other Brady Hoke Points At Stuff news, Brady Hoke points at stuff.
Media, as in unwashed internet rabble. I have no idea what "Everybody pants now" means, but if you watch Parks and Rec you probably do. Amongst Adam Jacobi's things he learned in the conference this week:
So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.
Jacobi's still not banking on Michigan "surviving" our "brutal November," but if not surviving means not winning the division instead of collapsing to 7-5 I don't think Michigan fans are going to be too peeved.
Blake Countess is the next Leon Hall. Yep, I said it. Minnesota doesn't have the greatest talent in the world, but Countess has looked pretty darn good for two weeks in a row. Courtney Avery had a nice 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but Avery has been getting beaten more regularly than any of Michigan's other corners this year. He's still not bad, but it looks like Countess will grab a starting spot sooner rather than later.
The Hoover Street Rag notes it was appropriate that Michigan tried a transcontinental-type play on the same day they honored John Navarre, though in that case they were attempting a double pass, not a run. Was anyone else OUTRAGED that the Navarre highlight package didn't include the Buffalo Stampede? That's like having an Alan Branch highlight package without the Morelli elimination.
That was an old school Michigan blowout, like the ones you'd watch on ESPN Plus (memory lane, you are there now) back in the day, where nothing was ever in doubt and The Law was that Michigan would average a billion yards a carry under a grumpy Michigan sky. It's always the ideal of overindulgence, and if anything it's a reminder of how far we've come since 2008 when beating Minnesota on the road was considered an upset.
Media as in newspaper type things. Brian Bennett's take from the ESPN Big Ten blog:
f and when Minnesota can get back to being competitive in the Big Ten, the Gophers can use Saturday's game as a motivational tool.
Hopefully for them, they'll remember this as rock bottom. Because Michigan blew the doors off Jerry Kill's team in a 58-0 humiliation at the Big House. The Wolverines have dominated this Little Brown Jug series for the last 40 years, but Saturday's margin of victory was the largest in the long-running semi-rivalry. It was the fifth-largest win in Michigan history, and that's a lot of history there.
Are we seriously declaring a knee to end the game as a failed redzone opportunity, News?
For Michigan, this game was a chance to flex its muscles offensively and defensively, add a few wrinkles and give as many players as possible — in this case, 71 — an opportunity to play. Michigan was 8-of-9 in the red zone against the Gophers and is now 21-of-22 for the season (17 touchdowns and four field goals).
No, we are not.
Via the Daily, some facts that sum up last year's field goal kicking:
The three field goals were each career longs [for Gibbons] at the time, starting from 25 yards and going to 32 yards and to 38 yards. In five games this season he’s missed just one field goal — a 40-yard try against San Diego State.
INTERESTING SCREENSHOT OF THE WEEK
Hey, that's a lady. BTN didn't show any shots of people you'd recognize, so this is the closest thing to evidence that they were holding up pictures of people who left. She must be support staff or something.
Formation notes: Mostly under, which they ran almost all the time when they were actually running what they wanted to. When SDSU went to spread formations the nickel package came in, with a good amount of one-high press…
…and some regular old nickel even. IE: the usual. No funny stuff.
Substitution notes: Kovacs and Gordon went the whole way with Carvin Johnson re-claiming his spot as the fifth defensive back in nickel. Gordon is the nickelback; Johnson came in as a safety. Woolfolk went out with an ankle issue in the second quarter and Avery came in; Floyd went out with a ding in the third quarter and Countess came in. When Floyd returned it was Avery, not Countess, who took a seat.
At LB it was Ryan-Demens-Hawthorne almost the whole way. Morgan, Fitzgerald, and Beyer got a series or two each spelling the starters.
On the DL, the same four starters (Roh, RVB, Martin, Heininger) with heavy rotation from Campbell and Black with lesser rotation from Brink. I don't think I saw much of Washington. In the nickel package they lifted one of the DT types and left Ryan out as a DE.
|O18||1||10||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Martin||3|
|RB takes the handoff to the right of the QB as the FB goes left—a bit of counter action here. Martin(+2) pushes the C into the backfield, forcing an awkward cut from Hillman; RVB(+0.5) has also gotten penetration, forcing Hillman to hit it up in the small crease between the two DTs. Martin chucks his blocker and comes off to tackle. I'm trying to figure out why this is three yards instead of zero—think it's the linebackers not being aggressive enough, but no minuses.|
|O21||2||7||I-Form twins unbalanced||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||6|
|First of many flips by M's DL as SDSU flips the formation. This will have to get sorted out. They actually end up in an even formation with LBs from strong to weak Demens, Hawthorne, Ryan. Given the alignment of the other LBs this appears to be a bust by Ryan(-2), who did not flip when the rest of the line did. As a result they run power off the left hand side and one guy has no one to block. Demens heads straight upfield, taking on an OL peeling off RVB right at the LOS. This forces a bounce that may have been coming anyway because of the Ryan misalignment. RVB gets caught inside but I don't blame him since this is probably how he's supposed to play it when he's got an SLB. M gets lucky that the FB jets downfield instead of trying to block Hawthorne, who is scraping quickly from the interior. Hawthorne(+0.5) shoots between the FB headed for Kovacs and the pulling OL, forcing Hillman outside. He misses a tackle(-1) but his ability to get out in a flash forces Hillman outside into Kovacs(+0.5), who set up in a good spot; Hillman cuts back under where Ryan makes some amends by tackling before the sticks. Not an RPS minus because the error here is w/ player, not call.|
|O27||3||1||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Roh||-1|
|Pulling guard trips as he comes out of his stance, which helps quite a bit. Roh(+3) is one on one with a tight end, pushes him into the backfield, and then throws him to the ground. He meets Hillman head-on a yard in the backfield for a thumping tackle. Strong possibility this is still stuffed with the pull since Hawthorne(+0.5) had flown up into the gap outside Roh and was in position to tackle behind the LOS.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O20||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Ryan||10|
|Ryan(-2) straight upfield again, giving up the edge. When you're let into the backfield without being blocked and don't make this guy at least change his flight path you messed up. There's no way for the LBs to remain responsible on the inside run here and get outside to track the jet sweep down unless Ryan delays the guy; he does not. Gordon keeps leverage forcing it back; Demens is pursuing and Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle at the sticks.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Big||4-4 under||Pass||5||Throwaway||Heininger||Inc (Pen -10)|
|Not really a blitz as this is a two-man route. Deep guy is bracketed by Floyd and Woolfolk; Kovacs is going with the TE who motioned out. I think Lindley sees Hawthorne in his throwing lane and decides to chuck it at his RB's feet, which causes Hawthorne to vacate that lane when he sees the QB's eyes leave. Also, Heininger(+1, pressure +1) got in Lindley's face, drawing a holding call. It kind of looks like the TE hitch might be open, but results-based charting. (Cover +2, Kovacs +0.5; Floyd +0.5; Woolfolk +0.5)|
|O20||1||20||I-Form||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Woolfolk||8|
|Played poorly by Woolfolk(-1), who lets the play outside of him and gives up eight yards on a nothing screen. Either have to tackle more quickly or force it back to help; Hawthorne was probably there if forced inside.|
|O28||2||12||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Floyd||11|
|SDSU shifts from an I-form and gets a too-easy pitch and catch in front of Floyd(cover -1). Not really his fault as this was a zone blitz they had a good route on for (RPS –1).|
|O39||3||1||I-Form big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Martin||7|
|TEs flip and this time Ryan has his head on straight. Martin(+1) slides through the center instantly. He's into the backfield, picking off a puller. This provides Michigan a free hitter, which is a hard-flowing Demens(+1), who is in position to tackle for loss; Hillman bounces. Woolfolk(+1) is there on the edge but is held to the point where his shoulder pads pop out; no call. Refs -2.|
|O46||1||10||I-Form twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Hawthorne||7|
|So this is what happens when Michigan does not flip the formation: not good stuff. Michigan's defense makes no sense: they're outnumbered on the strong side so they slant weakside and blitz Floyd(?!?) from the weakside as well. Black(-1) is not done favors by the play call but gets nailed inside; Hawthorne(+1) takes on a lead block and gets crushed but manages to keep his feet and draw the attention of a second blocker, who kicks the poor guy's ass. Hawthorne falls backwards right into Hillman's feet, which he grabs. Woolfolk was also there. Demens did okay considering the circumstances; Ryan(-0.5) was lost on the backside of the play; would not have been available to pursue if needed. RPS -2.|
|M47||2||3||Shotgun twin TE||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Zone read dive||Demens||7|
|Neither DT needs a double. Brink(+0.5) and Campbell(+0.5) stand up single blocks and get upfield, so the A gap is where the play must go. Heininger(-2) ends up sealed a yard and a half downfield after only a momentary double. The linebackers take on blocks near the first down marker and converge to tackle. Hillman and various OL start pushing the pile, whereupon Hillman fumbles because Demens(+2) ripped the ball out.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 7 min 1st Q. Not too peeved about this drive since it should have been booted off the field on a third and short but for a hold.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O30||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||PA Deep out||Gordon||21|
|Morgan in for Hawthorne. Late motion stacks the two WRs over each other; one runs deep and the other cuts out an out route. Deep guy has run off Woolfolk and Gordon is coming from the inside so there's a big hole in the coverage(-2). Martin(+0.5) had gotten some pressure on Lindley to force him to throw it off his back foot a bit; Morgan(-1) sucked way up on the playfake and let Hillman out into the flat with no one around him. Gordon(-1) didn't read this very well.|
|M49||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||3|
|Another formation flip, causing Michigan to do the same. TE then motions into the backfield as short side is overloaded. This time Ryan(+0.5) is in the right spot. He takes on his blocker quickly, standing him up at the LOS and further inside than he wants to be. Pulling G impacts him. RVB, Martin, and Heininger all do their jobs without doing anything spectacular, so there are no holes and a wad of bodies forms about two yards downfield. Half points for RVB and Heininger; Martin got pushed back a bit trying to shed and is the reason there's a little push.|
|M46||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||6||Out||Woolfolk||10|
|Rhythm throw from Lindley comes too soon for serious pressure unless someone doesn't get picked up; SDSU stones the blitz (pressure -1, RPS -1). Woolfolk(+0.5) is there to tackle on the catch and has a decent shot of raking the ball out; he's about a half step from a PBU.|
|M36||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||Gordon||1|
|Both TEs block down as both guards pull. Ryan again flies straight upfield, avoiding the downblock but not doing anything useful. If he slows up here and picks off the pulling G he gets a plus, but he doesn't. Hillman is in business if he cuts upfield but he widens too much and too fast for his OL to keep up with him, allowing Gordon(+1) to flow hard upfield. Hillman tries to cut inside; Demens(+0.5) slows up and is blocked by the guy Ryan did not pick off. He is in a good spot to prevent bad things from happening, though. Hillman bounces back outside, where Gordon has beaten the other G's block. He can't make a tackle but does slow Hillman enough for Demens, Martin, and Morgan to tackle for little gain. One yard gain only gets 1.5 plus because I think this is a poor job by Hillman of reading his blocks.|
|M35||2||9||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Campbell||5|
|TE motions in and Floyd moves down in as a quasi SLB. Michigan slanting playside; Heininger(+0.5) gets upfield of his guy but Campbell(-1) does not, getting sealed away. Heininger's move robs SDSU of some of its blocking angles; there's an OL out on Morgan but no one on Floyd or Demens so those guys can shut it down after a few yards provided by the Campbell crease. Would like to see Demens(-0.5) hit this more authoritatively; he gives up YAC by making a bleah arm tackle.|
|M30||3||4||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||6||Slant||Van Bergen||Inc|
|Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it at the line.|
|M30||4||4||Shotgun 2TE||Okie press||Pass||6||RB flat||Demens||Inc|
|So they do leave a guy wide open here, but they might have done it on purpose. SDSU misaligns, leaving a TE covered up. Johnson points him out out Floyd, and, then Floyd ignores him to double the RB coming out of the flat. Is Johnson IDing the guy as ineligible or telling Floyd to cover him and getting ignored? Don't know. In any case, Michigan sends six. Ryan gets a free run(+0.5, pressure/RPS +1) but Lindley has time to try to find a guy. It's his RB leaking into the flat after giving Demens(+2, cover +2) an ole; Demens pivots and is maybe a step behind him, making this throw all but impossible. Lindley has about a yard where the RB can catch it but it won't bounce off Demens's head, and Floyd(+0.5) is coming up to hit him at or near the sticks anyway.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 14-0, 3 min 1st Q. The coverage is just night and day. Sometimes guys get open but this is suddenly a much, much tougher secondary to go up against.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 even||Pass||5||PA TE Seam||--||Inc|
|I don't know what the hell they pulled to get this but Ryan is now lined up over the slot receiver. Michigan runs zone behind a blitz; Lindley throws a seam to a TE who is running an out. With three guys around this TE it was going to be a tough window on the seam.|
|O27||2||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Campbell||4|
|So... Campbell(+0.5). He gets doubled and holds his ground as NTs are supposed to do. Hurrah. This allows both LBs to flow to the hole unimpeded. Ryan(+0.5) gets into his blocker at the LOS, forcing the pulling G and RB outside; Fitz(+1) takes on the G at the LOS and forces it back to Hawthorne, his help. This should be a textbook stop except Ryan(-0.5) has started to cede ground quickly and is now behind the LOS. Cutback lane opens up. Campbell should be there to cut it off but has spent the entire play just burrowing into his two dudes. Gordon(+1) has flowed down with the time provided by the jam-up on the front and makes a solid-wrap up tackle(+1) to mitigate the damage but this probably should have been zero.|
|O31||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Dig||Gordon||Inc|
|This is so good. One: Martin(+2) rips through a double team and forces Lindley to throw to his first read(pressure +1). Two: Hawthorne is ripping upfield as Michigan sends three blitzers up the center as Black peels off to pick up the TE drag. Three: Gordon(+2, cover +2) reads the TE cut and jumps the route, arriving at the destination in front of the TE. If this is accurate Gordon has a shot at an INT; Lindley wings it wide. This is what a damn strong defense looks like.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, EO1Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O17||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||4||RB flat||Martin||Inc|
|Martin(+2, pressure +1) roars up the center of the pocket, eventually pancaking the center(!) and causing Lindley to dump it inaccurately to a flat route Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) had blanketed anyway.|
|O17||2||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||5||Out||Woolfolk||13|
|I think Beyer needs to get some more depth on his drop here but this is a 12-yard out he can't help on. Far too easy for the WR here as Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten clean and can only shove the guy out after he turns upfield.|
|O30||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle TE Flat||Roh||Inc|
|Roh(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) don't bite on a weak fake and are right in Lindley's face(pressure +2), forcing him to turf it. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) had gotten way out of position and this would have been open otherwise.|
|O30||2||10||I-Form twins||Nickel press||Run||N/A||Iso||Van Bergen||9|
|Michigan goes nickel on second and long versus a standard set, and are one guy away from stuffing a run anyway. Martin(+1) slants under the backside G and just misses taking out the FB. Instead he's in the path of the RB, forcing him to stop and cut back behind. Both linebackers shed blocks and are about to tackle when Van Bergen(-2) gets blown way off the line after standing up initially, providing a cutback lane with no one in it because Black(-1) ran around upfield. Hawthorne nailed with a block in the back; no call. Johnson(+0.5, tackling +1) does fill well.|
|O39||3||1||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Campbell||2|
|Seems like M is playing this too conservatively, with two deep safeties and the LBs five yards off the LOS. Campbell(+0.5) stands up a G and comes off to tackle but it's not enough with the LBs having to come down from far away.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Post||Woolfolk||Inc|
|Good pocket(pressure -1) and Lindley seems to want a post on Woolfolk—you can tell how they're picking on him and avoiding Floyd. The receiver thinks it's a run play and starts blocking.|
|O41||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||3||Out||Gordon||9|
|Gordon(-1) allows a five yard out, which fine, but then overruns the play (tackling -1), turning the five yards into nine. He does manage to tackle from behind when the WR slows up.|
|50||3||1||Ace twin TE||4-3 under||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|This is why you don't talk into conch shells.|
|O45||3||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Slant||Woolfolk||9|
|No time to get to the QB here as it's slants; Woolfolk(-1, cover -1) is beaten, and while I wouldn't usually be so harsh here he's got a WR juggling the ball and if he hits him at all it's incomplete. Instead he's a step away. It's instructive to compare Floyd on the other side—he is covering his very well. Woolfolk leaves the game limping at this point.|
|M46||1||10||Goal line||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Hawthorne||4|
|Nothing on the frontside as Martin(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) hold up; Heininger(-1) is blown up but Hawthorne(+1) slices into the gap before the guy coming off Heininger can pop him. Roh(+0.5) is flowing down the backside and forces a bounce all the way behind into an unblocked Avery, who tackles.|
|M42||2||6||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Long handoff||Floyd||5|
|Kovacs is charging hard from the inside and Floyd does play this better than Woolfolk, making a tackle instead of forcing him OOB. This means five yards instead of eight. Still less than ideal.|
|M37||3||1||I-Form Big||46 eagle||Run||N/A||Down G||Fitzgerald||2|
|Going at Fitz, lined up over the TE. He does an okay job to stay at the LOS but gets no penetration. Playside DE is RVB, who shoots into the backfield and gets blown out of the play. That is something that happens when you're gambling on short yardage. Demens(+0.5) gets to the lead blocker at the LOS and forces Kazee up the back of the TE; Hawthorne(+0.5) comes under a block to tackle but Kazee can fall forward for the first.|
|M35||1||10||I-Form||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA Deep comeback||Ryan||21 (Pen -10)|
|Ryan(+2, pressure +1) is blitzing off the edge and gets inside the fullback; he's held. Otherwise a sack is likely. Lindley steps around the hold and lofts an impossibly accurate back-foot deep comeback that nails a WR at the sticks 16 yards downfield in front of Avery. Dude made a lot of bad throws, but dude... this is dude. Avery(-1, tackling -1) compounds matters by missing a tackle.|
|Campbell(+1) and Heininger(+1) both shove single blocking into the backfield, forcing the play behind into the unblocked Ryan(+0.5) for a TFL.|
|M45||2||20||Shotgun 2TE||Nickel press||Pass||4||TE flat||Avery||2|
|Ryan(+0.5) and Roh(+0.5, pressure +1) bullrush right back into Lindley, forcing a quick throw for nothing that Avery(+1, cover +1, tackling +1) is all over.|
|M43||3||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Post||Floyd||Inc|
|Martin(+1, pressure +1) flushes Lindley up into the pocket; he has to throw as RVB threatens to come outside to take him out. It's a post. Similar to the previous incompletion on fourth down, here the Michigan defender is in very good position and Lindley's window is tiny. Floyd(+1, cover +1) doesn't get his head around for the ball and so doesn't pick up an extra plus; if he did you could have filed this under passes Lindley was lucky he didn't throw more accurately.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M48||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Martin||Inc (Pen -10)|
|Martin(+2) blows through the center's block before Lindley can even turn around and his held. Lindley is all like GET IN THE CAR IT'S MIKE MARTIN and chucks the ball away. (Pressure +2)|
|O42||1||20||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Demens||-2|
|Hoo! Demens(+2) reads the play and roars to the LOS, blasting the pulling OL on his ass. Ryan(+2) set up the FB's block so that it would be in the wrong place, Harris-style, then explodes upfield at about the same time Demens is giving this OL the business, tackling for loss. Greg Mattison, man.|
|O40||2||22||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Floyd||Inc|
|Lindley wings a slant behind his receiver. Floyd(+0.5) seemed in position for an immediate tackle, which is fine in this D&D.|
|O40||3||22||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Black||8 (Pen +5)|
|Black(-1) jumps offside. Lindley checks down (cover +1) despite having a free play.|
|O45||3||17||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Comeback||Martin||Inc|
|Zone blitz with both LBs headed up the middle as the DEs drop off. Kovacs comes late. This is telegraphed and picked up; Martin(+2) quickly battles through the OT's block and gets a hurry on Lindley, forcing him to get rid of the ball. Comeback is well wide. Short of the sticks but in go for it range if complete. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 11 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Power off tackle||Ryan||2|
|Michigan slants the line away from the strength of the formation. This takes RVB(+0.5) into the playside G, eliminating him from downfield blocking. Ryan(+1) impacts both lead blockers, delaying the lead guy and taking the second one. Fitz's initial burst is taking him outside, where he'll need to be if there is a bounce against this slant, so he can't change direction fast enough to do much other than impact the FB that Ryan delayed. That's fine since the slant has left Hawthorne(-0.5) a free hitter. If he's as fast to the LOS as Fitz this is no gain; as it is he's a little late. He does tackle(+1). RPS +1.|
|M37||2||8||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|WR beats Floyd(-1, cover -1) clean and Lindley can throw on rhythm. WR drops it. Pressure was getting there if there was a second read. (Pressure +1)|
|M37||3||8||Ace twins twin TE||Okie press||Run||N/A||Pitch sweep||--||22|
|Massive RPS here as Michigan is lined up in its okie set with one guy on deep and does not react when SDSU motions in a TE who was already split out. When the Aztecs run the toss to that side they've got Roh, Hawthorne, Kovacs, and Avery versus four OL. Yay. Roh(-1) crushed inside like Lewan is blocking him; Kovacs(-2) takes fatal steps to the interior. Hawthorne manages to spin outside one block only to get buried by another OL. Avery keeps leverage but has little hope of doing anything else. Johnson(+0.5) manages to dive at Hillman's feet as he nears the 15 despite taking on a block; Hillman runs through it but this slows him down enough for a pursuing RVB(+2) to tackle from behind, punching the ball free as he does. Ryan recovers. RPS -3. It is super inane that the replay focuses on Jake Ryan instead of the DT WHO RAN DOWN RONNIE HILLMAN. Guh.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-0, 9 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O23||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Yakety snap||--||1|
|Fumbled snap is picked up by Hillman, who rushes to the edge. Ryan gets lit up on a crackback block; Floyd cleans up. He's dinged on the tackle, paving the way for Countess.|
|O24||2||9||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||TE Corner||Martin||Inc|
|This is open for a big chunk and just missed; Avery(-2, cover -2) has no threats in front of him and has to get much deeper on this to take it away. Ryan(+1) and Martin(+1) had both beaten blocks to pressure(+2) Lindley, possibly causing the incompletion. If Avery covers this is a sack.|
|O24||3||9||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Skinny post||Countess||Inc|
|Time, but no one open(cover +2); Countess(+2, cover +1 again) is tested and is running this skinny post for the WR; he's even got his head around. Ball is well behind the WR and incomplete.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-0, 2 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M38||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA something||Countess||Inc|
|Plenty of time(pressure -1); Lindley throws sort of in the direction of Countess and his guy but not, like, near them.|
|M38||2||10||I-Form twins||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Iso||Ryan||4|
|Ryan in space over the slot receiver. Campbell(+1) takes a double and doesn't move, then fights playside of his blocker. Hole is small. Fitz(+1) pops the FB right at the line; RVB(+1) fights outside to keep the bounce from happening; Ryan(-1) is hesitant about the bounce and fails to fill the last remaining crack of space Hillman has; he does tackle but the delay allows Hillman to get four where there were none. It is possible this is on RVB for bouncing out, but I doubt it since he's the senior.|
|M34||3||6||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Slant||Avery||7|
|This seems like about as good as you can defend this. Avery(+1, cover +1) does give up the inside but only barely; he's right on the WR's back and the throw has to be perfect and the catch good since Avery whacks the WR's hand just as the ball arrives, then tackles.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3TE||Nickel even||Pass||4||PA TE Wheel||Kovacs||Inc (Pen -5)|
|Black(+1) beats a blocker and hurries Lindley(pressure +1), forcing a throw. This one is way off and wouldn't have mattered anyway since Kovacs(+2, cover +2) had run the guy's route for him, forcing the TE OOB of his own volition. Another good-thing-you're-inaccurate-buddy throw. TE was covered up anyway, illegal man downfield. I would not have taken a five yard penalty instead of an incompletion here.|
|M32||1||15||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||6||PA RB flat||Hawthorne||13|
|Blitz gets a guy in but there is an easy dumpoff because of it; Hawthorne(-2, tackling -2) is running out to keep this down to a moderate gain but overruns the play badly, barely touching Hillman. Gordon comes from behind to tackle near the sticks.|
|M19||2||2||Goal line||4-3 under||Pass||4||Waggle TE Flat||Ryan||3|
|Hillman takes three yards on a TE flat. Okay.|
|M16||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||4||Post||Avery||16|
|I actually tend to blame Gordon more than Avery here; as soon as that TE in the slot goes horizontal you are no longer threatened in the deep middle and it's time to find the other WRs. That's speculation from me. Avery does get beat on the post but not by much. He's again on the back of the WR and forces a perfect throw, which Lindley provides. Am I being too nice here?|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, EO3Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|50||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Inside zone||Black||0|
|Black(+2) ducks under the OT's block and penetrates into the backfield, forcing Hillman away from blocking lanes and getting a diving arm tackle attempt that brings him to a near halt. Martin(+0.5) has held his position and pops off into a lane that Hillman might hit; he comes back inside, where Demens(+0.5) is there to finish the job.|
|50||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Slant||Countess||10|
|Blitz up the middle with dropping DEs. I can't tell if this is Ryan's fault, Countess's fault, or no one's fault. Ryan drops back into the slot's slant instead of the outer slant, leaving it open; Countess is off the line. I'm watching Floyd on the other side play an identical slant and he's in much better position, so Countess(-1, cover -1) gets the ding. He does recover to tackle before the sticks. Also pressure -1.|
|M40||1||10||I-Form twins||4-3 under||Pass||5||Post||Countess||Inc|
|Ryan off the line. He approaches it on a late shift; Gordon comes down over the slot for a one-high look. Play action with the outside receivers going deep; Countess is in man with a guy on a post. He runs it for him (+2, cover +2) and Lindley adds to his list of thankfully inaccurate passes. Pressure -1.|
|M40||2||10||Shotgun 2TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||Hitch||Floyd||Inc|
|Big personnel with Hillman spread out wide and a FB next to Lindley. They run a little hitch to Hillman, which might work okay if they'd successfully motioned out a LB on him, but it's Floyd(+2, cover +2), who breaks on the ball for a PBU. RPS +1.|
|M40||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||6||Fade||Countess||Inc|
|Blitz gets Morgan(+1, RPS +1, Pressure +2) a free run up the middle. Lindley makes a back-foot chuck a la Carder but this one is deadly accurate, a fade outside of Countess's guy(-1, cover -1) that he just drops.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||I-Form Big||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Outside zone||Ryan||14|
|I think. It's not really stretch blocking but the playside tackle is definitely sealing RVB inside. It bounces outside spectacularly because Ryan(-2) is hacked to the ground by a fullback block, giving up the corner. Demens(-2) is also cut to the ground, meaning there's zero chance anyone can get out there before the secondary.|
|O48||1||10||Ace twin TE||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Jet sweep||Van Bergen||-5|
|A tiny little adjustment murderizes the play. Michigan goes to an even front, which shifts RVB outside over a TE. TEs fan out and RVB(+1). goes straight upfield to tackle(+1) for loss. Normally the TEs would block Ryan and the T would get Van Bergen but the shift to the even confused them. More bust than tactical checkmate but still RPS +1.|
|O43||2||15||I-Form twins||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Draw||Van Bergen||4|
|Van Bergen(+1) blows his guy back as they make contact, forcing Hillman behind him and away from his blocking. Countess(+0.5) realizes what's going on and sees Hillman coming; he can't disengage smoothly but does manage to sort of arm tackle him; Demens(+0.5) finishes it off. I'll take a four yard run on second and fifteen when you're in nickel and they're in a regular set.|
|O47||3||11||Shotgun 3-wide||Okie press||Pass||6||Slant||Countess||10|
|Countess(-1, cover -1) is beaten a lot easier than Floyd and Avery have been so far this game and can only tackle afterwards; no chance at a breakup. This sets up a fourth down.|
|M43||4||1||Ace 3TE||4-3 under||Pass||4||PA TE Seam||--||Inc|
|PA is wildly effective and this guy is wide open (RPS -2, cover -2) but either Lindley misses or his TE turns the wrong way and it's incomplete.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 21-7, 8 min 4th Q. Michigan scores quickly and SDSU gets the ball back with 6 minutes left down 21. Both starting units stay on so I'll keep charting, but with game situation in mind big minuses for chunks will be slim. I'm mostly just trying to get a grip on the D.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel even||Pass||5||Out||Kovacs||Inc|
|Lindley badly misses on an out or the WR should have run a hitch; either way Kovacs(-1, cover -1) is way far off after a Floyd corner blitz.|
|O27||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Flat||Countess||2|
|Okay pressure; Lindley has to check down (cover +1). Countess(+1, tackling +1) is the hard corner in the zone and comes up for an immediate tackle.|
|O29||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie press||Pass||5||Skinny post||Van Slyke||23|
|Van Slyke in tight man against an SDSU TE and just gets outrun by yards. Man. That guy cannot play in real games, I don't think. No cover because I don't think this is relevant to actual games.|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||3||Dig||Hawthorne||15|
|Hawthorne(-2, cover -2) busts, flying out on an out route and leaving a big hole in the zone.|
|M33||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Post||Gordon||14|
|Out and and a post behind it; Gordon starts moving out on the out, then realizes that's not a good idea and sinks back. On the throw he's right there but the WR undercuts him a little and gets to the ball first, making a juggling catch. He's there and he's got a shot at an INT; could have played it better when the ball got there. (-0.5)|
|M19||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Sack||Roh||-8|
|Not instant BG death pressure here as Lindley sits for a second or two before trying a deep corner route, but Roh(+2) does beat the OT and hit the QB as he throws, forcing a drive-ending fumble. Pressure +1.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 28-7, 5 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O17||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||TE seam||Demens||30|
|Martin and Lindley are out there so I guess I'm charting. I have no idea what to do with this one since Demens is in great position and actually has this ball go off his head before the TE Prothros him. I think (+0.5, cover +1) but please get your head around son before you Todd Howard us all. I mean... this throw was really hard and so was the catch and Demens could have done better but he didn't do bad.|
|O47||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Countess?||13|
|This may be on Countess (-1, cover -1), as this appears to be zone; Countess sits down on a short hitch, opening space up behind him that Gordon and the S can't cover. He should definitely be dropping deeper in this situation; who cares about a little hitch?|
|M40||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Pass||N/A||Bubble screen||Countess||1|
|Michigan misaligns and SDSU busts. Opa! Hawthorne(-1) lines up wrong but the WR out on the bubble doesn't block so okay. Countess tackles for a minimal gain.|
|M39||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||Inc|
|Gordon on the slot; pocket is okay; Black is getting there but Lindley can step up. Zinged to Denso, who makes a one-handed grab with Gordon in pursuit. Gordon was riding him but couldn't make a play on the ball. -0.5. It's dropped because of the tough throw.|
|M39||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Screen||Ryan||Inc|
|Ryan(+1) and Campbell(+1) read screen and snuff it out; Lindley turfs it. RPS +1. Black(-1) was offside.|
|M34||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||9|
|Gordon(-1, cover -1) beaten, and fairly easily.|
|M25||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Countess||6|
|Six yard slant with instant tackle... I usually don't ding these on first down since you have to be wary about longer routes.|
|M19||2||4||Shotgun 4-wide tight||Nickel even||Pass||4||Out||Countess||Inc|
|Wide. Probably right at the sticks if completed.|
|M19||3||4||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||4||Hitch||Hawthorne||6|
|Hawthorne in tight coverage but Lindley fits it in and Hawthorne can't rake it out.|
|M13||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel press||Pass||4||Throwaway||Black||Inc|
|Black(+1) gets some pressure and Lindley chucks it OOB due to good coverage(+1).|
|M13||2||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel press||Pass||4||Corner||Countess||Inc|
|Corner route against man is a TD if well thrown; this is too far inside. Countess(+0.5) is there and can make a play on the ball as it gets there, though, so there's that. M making it tough.|
|M13||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Okie press||Pass||7||Seam||Floyd||Inc|
|Unblocked guy, naturally, Lindley chucks it off his back foot inaccurately; Floyd(+1, cover +1, RPS +1) was riding the WR before the throw to make sure that was the case.|
|M13||4||10||Ace twins twin TE||Nickel press||Pass||4||Slant||Gordon||Inc|
|Gordon in trail position again and seems beaten but as the WR catches it he double clutches; Gordon(+1, cover +1) punches it loose.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-7, EOG.|
OH MAH GAWD WE HELD A ACTUAL-ISH TEAM TO SEVEN POINTS
Yes. Yes, smooth out the jacket.
Insert bubble pipe.
Adopt calm, professional mien.
How about a chart?
Yes, that will help.
That's not very professional.
I took out the reference to "sex."
You have multiple exclamation points… and did you put the title at a jaunty angle? IS THAT AN EMO-KID LOWERCASE LETTER AMONGST CAPITALS IN THERE?
It's not in comic sans at least.
Pretty soon you'll be referring to Michigan's coaches as "CBH, CGM, and CAB."
Hater. I'm not even going to let you say chart.
|Van Bergen||8.5||2||6.5||Forced fumble was big deal; solid otherwise.|
|Roh||6.5||1||5.5||Not bad for splitting time.|
|Heininger||3||3||0||I'll take it.|
|Black||4||4||0||Not much impact; two offsides calls.|
|Campbell||4.5||1||3.5||Keep hope alive.|
|TOTAL||42.5||11||31.5||Martin wrecked these guys. Check the pressure metric.|
|Demens||9.5||2.5||7||Not sure what to do with his Howard-esque coverage but I liked it.|
|Ryan||9.5||8||1.5||Paging Jonas Mouton to aisle reincarnation.|
|Fitzgerald||2||-||2||A couple plays.|
|Beyer||-||-||-||Did not register.|
|Hawthorne||4.5||6.5||-2||Half of minuses came on final drive, fwiw, but he did bust a coverage there.|
|TOTAL||26.5||18||8.5||A better day from most; Ryan makes plays but really needs to settle down on the edge.|
|Floyd||5.5||1||4.5||Tony Gibson -1000|
|Avery||2||3||-1||Tough completions made against him.|
|Woolfolk||2||3||-1||Didn't seem right even before the injury.|
|Kovacs||3.5||3||0.5||Got him on the long RPS run.|
|T. Gordon||5||4||1||All safeties > 0 against real QB.|
|Countess||6||4||2||Not as rapturous as we thought but still pretty good, full stop.|
|Johnson||1||-||1||A couple of fills.|
|Tackling||5||5||0||Could use work.|
|RPS||8||10||-2||Blitzing reduced as not necessary; did get RPS-3ed on a big run|
To sanity check those numbers, SDSU had thirteen drives and got seven points. Four drives started at midfield or worse. When Michigan punched in their final TD to end the game with about six minutes left, SDSU had 266 yards. Michigan at least sort of forced three turnovers.
I think they're right. With a few exceptions on too-easy short passes and busts on edge contain, San Diego State got dominated.
But Lindley was terrible. This means nothing!
I don't think Lindley was good by any means, but in a way the Aztecs were lucky he was so off. On multiple plays Michigan had defensive backs in position to either get PBUs or intercept the ball only to see Lindley miss by miles. A lot of the time the reason those balls were so off was pressure applied by Martin or others.
Lindley is no joke, either. He is a legit NFL prospect:
Overall, he’s got a strong arm, showcases the ability to look off defenders, find a secondary option and when given time he can get his feet around toward his target. However, he doesn’t possess the kind of coordination/balance from the waist down that you want to see from an NFL quarterback, especially in today’s NFL where you need a QB who can escape pressure both inside and outside the pocket, settle himself quickly and burn a defense that wants to bring the blitz. Something I have a hard time seeing Lindley doing consistently at the next level.
Lindley is certainly worth a draft pick and has the skill set to go somewhere in the early/mid round range, depending on how well he performs the rest of the year/post-season. However, if he doesn’t improve his overall footwork/coordination from the pocket, it’s going to be tough for him to make plays in the NFL when he doesn’t have a clean pocket.
While he's not Tom Brady I don't have to remind anyone reading this of the murderer's row that carved Michigan up last year.
The Michigan secondary held a fifth year senior NFL prospect QB to 5.3 YPA, which is also known as "Threet/Sheridan production." Take whatever coaching-upgrade-based optimism you held going into the season and triple it.
Okay, okay, no receivers and a lot of Mike Martin tearing through the line. Sure. San Diego State is going to backslide this year. I refer you to the above murderers row, though. Upgrade: massive.
Here's where I want to embed several plays that showcased Michigan's newfound talent for making life tough on opposing receivers, but I'm still trying to figure out what my status is there. But, man, even when SDSU was completing stuff they had guys in their grill. Lindley had to make some perfect passes to complete slants on Avery and often just missed because a guy like Demens had given him the choice of throwing it high/wide or throwing it into his helmet.
And the run defense?
There are still problems on the edge. Ryan did end up positive but is dinged for losing contain on three separate occasions that resulted in 30 yards. So there's that. There was also the massive minus rock-paper-scissor run that ended in the Hillman fumble. That was another 30 yards. So the SDSU run game:
- Ryan losing contain on edge (w/ assist from Demens once): 3 carries, 30 yards
- That one RPS play: 1 carry, 30 yards
- Everything else: 24 carries, 77 yards
As a wise groundskeeper in a Snickers commercial once said, great googly moogly. Say what you want about Lindley and his receivers, SDSU returned essentially their entire running game and was shut down when not exploiting one freshman's issues with keeping the edge or running that one play. Those things seem fixable. Even if they aren't, Michigan held the Aztecs to 4.2 YPC.
I'm getting closer to believing that Campbell can be an average three-tech in the Big Ten. Like, a guy who doesn't get blown up and is mildly positive. Weakness at LB outside of Demens is going to be an issue that prevents Michigan from having a really good run defense, but I think they're 80% of the way to the best case scenario already.
So you're down on Ryan, then.
Relative to the rest of the internet, yeah. I think he's promising. I also think he's making four or five really obvious mistakes per game. Maize Pages picture paged the second play of the game, a six yard run that was the first of Michigan's Flip You For Real plays. Notice something?
The middle linebacker is… Brandin Hawthorne. The line is… undershifted. Jake Ryan is… definitely not in position. When Michigan meant to run an even front this is what it looked like:
Demens in the middle, line slid more playside. Maize Pages dinged the D for not adjusting but they didn't have to; a safety slid down when the TE went in motion. If Ryan's where he's supposed to be Michigan probably defends this play.
I'm a little less thrilled than I was on gameday but I'm still pretty impressed. Even more impressive: when SDSU runs double slants and I look across the field at Floyd to see if he's playing it better, he is. Maybe we should be saying FLOYD!
Seriously. When the starters were in there, SDSU went after Woolfolk. When Avery was in there, they went after Avery. Floyd came up with a jumped-route PBU and ended up significantly positive despite being a corner. I'm still leery about the depth of the transformation here but each game adds evidence to the pile indicating Floyd can play now and Pitt fans should get used to shootouts.
Back to Countess: he ran some routes for guys, which puts him in a group with Gordon, Kovacs, Floyd, and not quite Avery. I be like dang.
Speaking of being like dang…
Yes. Mike Martin in full effect, never more so than when he literally ran over the SDSU center en route to the QB. A large number of Lindley's hopeless mortar shells can be directly attributed to Martin ripping through those guys like they were not there. This was a solid offensive line he did it to; with his quietly plus-double-digit day against Eastern (no passes to be devastating on) he seems poised to wreck the Big Ten. I can't wait to see him matchup against MSU's center, who will be a freshman coming off injury or a converted DT.
Why is your eye twitching?
BOY I'M GLAD TERRANCE ROBINSON CAN TACKLE DESPITE BEING SIX INCHES TALL
That's a lot of grass, man. That is all.
Mike Martin, JT Floyd(!?!), RVB, and Kenny Demens.
If I had to pick a guy it would be Ryan, but even that is a guy who ended up positive on the day. Black also should be mentioned—if you're going to take two offsides penalties you need to have one big negative play to compensate and he didn't.
What does it mean for Minnesota and beyond?
They should do about what they did to SDSU to Minnesota, a team in disarray that can maybe run a little bit when Gray is in there. I actually expect them to hold the Gophers to not many points.
As far as beyond, it seems like they've plugged a lot of their holes. I'm still worried about what happens when Michigan goes up against a serious offensive line but it's hard to find any until the last couple weeks of the schedule. There has been ever less firedrill confusion as the season progresses and in two weeks when they start the Big Ten schedule in earnest it's not too much to expect it to be largely gone. Then it's just a matter of getting improvement from Ryan/Hawthorne/Campbell/Johnson to bring the starting defense up to "decent to good Big Ten team." There's still a lack of out and out stars behind Martin but it's hard to point to a truly gaping hole at the moment, either.
This could all blow up against Northwestern if they've got Persa back. Right now, though, the defense is currently executing the best case scenario.
9/24/2011 – Michigan 28, San Diego State 7 – 4-0
A long, long time ago now a Lloyd-Carr coached Michigan team was struggling through the 2005 season when they met Northwestern. A lot of throws to Tacopants (Jason Avant's 11-foot-tall imaginary friend) on both sides later, Michigan emerged with a 33-17 win and I embarked on one of the first of an endless procession of stat-nerd diatribes about the evils of punting.
You've probably heard it already: punting decisions have not kept pace with the increasingly offensive nature of the game, leaving coaches in a perpetual state of risk- and win-avoidance. Romer paper, Pulaski High, Mathlete chart. Etc.
In this particular Northwestern game, though, Carr went for it on fourth and five from the Northwestern 23, a decision I thought was too aggressive(!). When paired with a number of similarly aggressive calls from earlier that season, it seemed like a sea change for the old man:
In multiple cases he's made tough, correct decisions: going on fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin, pounding it into the line twice against Michigan State, etc. Even when the strategy has backfired, he accepts the downside and persists in a more aggressive posture.
In context, the Penn State gaffe seems more like one last hit of that sweet Bombay Popsicle* snuck in-between rehab sessions than evidence of 1970s thinking taking hold. Lloyd Carr has checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center for Coaches Addicted to Low Variance. I wouldn't expect a flying-colors discharge any time soon, but he's made the first, biggest step.
*[I don't know either.]
That change lasted into the fourth quarter of that year's Ohio State game. Having acquired a two-score lead by converting a fourth and inches around the Michigan 40, Carr reverted to his primitive instincts at the crucial moment. With three minutes left from the Ohio State 40, he called for a wide receiver screen on third and ten. It gained six yards. With a two point lead, three minutes on the clock, no Ohio State timeouts left, and a fourth and four on the Ohio State 34, Carr punted. Ohio State drove for a touchdown; Carr would never again have the opportunity to kill a game against the Buckeyes.
In the moment, Carr choked. Six years on that single decision seems like the best way to explain why a lot Michigan fans found his tenure frustrating despite its high rate of success: the program was perpetually making poor decisions because a combination of fear and arrogance. Something could go wrong if you made a high variance decision, and Michigan could spit on expected value because This Is Michigan. See any game in which Michigan acquired an 18-point lead or the first half of the Orange Bowl for confirmation.
Carr coached like he had a kickass running game and killer defense no matter the facts, which was the difference between being a legend and a being a B+ coach who lost the battle with Tressel authoritatively. Hell, even Tressel blew games when he failed to adjust to the reality that sometimes his defense and special teams were not enough, and he ran roughshod over the Big Ten for nine years.
Part of the reason a segment of the Michigan fanbase (including the author) blew up at Hoke's hire is because it seemed to represent a return to that expectation-spurning 1970s decision-making.
Brady Hoke put a lot of those fears to rest by going for—and getting—the win against Notre Dame with eight seconds left. That decision was a no-brainer. If the field goal team had run out onto the field, I would have been livid. That was a test he passed, but it was one with a low bar.
On Saturday, Hoke sent out the punting team with about two and a half minutes left in the first half. It was fourth and two around midfield, and I was mildly peeved. It was not the percentage play, but I've watched a lot of football and it seemed too much to hope that even the rootin'est, tootin'est, eyepatch-wearingest pirate of a head coach would go for it. Needing more than a sneak and up fourteen in the first half, the world punts. My peevishness was directed at football coaches in general, not Hoke in particular.
And then an angel came down from the sky, and signaled timeout. Great trumpets erupted from the flagpoles, playing a fanfare as a golden staircase descended. Each of the steps was engraved with the names of World Series of Poker winners. Down from the clouds strode Doyle Brunson, clad in a jacket of hundred-dollar bills. And lo, Texas Dolly spaketh unto the people: "check-raise." Brady Hoke sent the offensive line onto the field.
This was a really, really good decision. Even if you don't believe the exact outlines of the Mathlete's calculations, it is not close: average offense versus average defense means the break-even line is around eight yards. This was not an average situation. Michigan had Denard Robinson against a pretty horrible run defense. And that number does not take into account the game situation. If Michigan gets the first down they are almost certainly robbing San Diego State of a possession. Punting gets you thirty, forty yards of field position. Getting the first down puts you in good position to score and is essentially another +1 in turnover margin. You need two yards and you have Denard Robinson.
stealing a joke from the internet: the guy on the right looks like he just looked into the Ark of the Covenant. via the News.
One speed option later Michigan was en route to the endzone and had essentially ended the game. Without that massively +EV decision they go into halftime up maybe 14, maybe 11, maybe 7 points. That ugly third quarter becomes the gut-check time most were predicting before the game. Maybe Michigan comes out on top (24-21, say). Maybe not. That didn't happen because when Michigan had its boot on San Diego State's neck, Hoke called Z 22 stomp right.
The Lloyd Carr example above shows we don't know that Hoke's going to do this consistently, that he'll stick to the non-pejorative MANBALL when the pressure is at its greatest, but so far so good. Even my doubts about Hoke's ability to math up in the waning moments of an Ohio State game are faint. When things go wrong he does not scowl or pout or throw headsets like Rich Rodriguez or Brian Kelly or Bo Pelini. He does not go on tilt. He calmly talks to guys about what in the hell they were thinking.
Hoke continues to leave best-case scenarios in the dust. Saturday night I watched Dennis Erickson punt on fourth and five from the USC 37 and thought "my coach would never do that." Then I watched Erickson chew out the punter who put the ball in the endzone because that's what happens when you punt from the 37 and thought "my coach would never do that."
That felt good. It felt invent-a-time-machine-to-assure-yourself-its-all-going-to-be-okay good. It feels like Michigan has finally learned how to gamble.
Boy do I want to play poker with certain people on the internet. Evaluating the decision has popped up on every Michigan message board. It's mostly been met with praise, but man, there are a lot of people who can't estimate and multiply out there. Maybe it's Carr Stockholm syndrome.
A reminder: anything on the MGoBlog photostream is creative-commons licensed, free to use for non-commercial applications. Attribution to Eric Upchurch, the Observer, and MGoBlog is appreciated.
Mark Huyge is delighted to be here. From the above SDSU photoset.
It's not quite the Molk death glare. It's more like Shifty-Eyed Dog.
Try to look at Mark Huyge ever again without having that play in your head.
That's a great question. Just as our rationality leads us to a belief in an objective reality, Kant believed there is an objective morality we can locate from the same process. The Categorical Imperative is an absolute, fundamental moral law on par with Minnesota losing to teams from the Dakotas. Things are either right or wrong—there are no gray areas, and context does not apply. You could call him the BJ Daniels of philosophy*.
*[Ten-cent summary of Kantian philosophy cribbed from Three Minute Philosophy, which is terrific. Philosophers wishing to quibble with my paraphrase of a comedic summary are invited to consider the moral consequences of their actions and also jump in a lake. USF fans wishing to WOO BJ DANIELS can skip to the latter.]
And the internet eeeed Countess. When Troy Woolfolk headed to the sidelines, all Michigan fans everywhere winced. When Blake Countess replaced JT Floyd in the third quarter, all Michigan fans everywhere prepared for the deluge.
It never came, and as a result everyone from my uncle to the internet to the newspapers are having little freakouts about Michigan's #4 corner. I am with all of you. The only thing stopping Countess from having a few PBUs or interceptions was Ryan Lindley's inability to throw the ball anywhere near the guys Countess had blanketed but Lindley targeted anyway.
For most of the third quarter I stopped watching the offensive backfield and started watching downfield coverage and while I won't be able to confirm this on the tape I think Countess was doing really well even when people weren't going after him. I'm with the rest of the internet when I suggest that Troy Woolfolk should take the Minnesota game off to recover from his multiple nagging injuries so we can see some more of the freshman.
I thought Avery did well, too. He had a third-down slant completed on him and was the DB victimized on the touchdown but in both cases he was right there tackling/raking at the ball. Is he doing something wrong I'm not perceiving yet? Because I think he's playing better than Woolfolk, who gave up some groan-worthy easy completions. (I don't blame him for allowing Hillman to bounce on one third down conversion because he was clearly held.)
Release the Martin. This week in the I-told-you-so files: Mike Martin is just fine. His good day last week was obscured by EMU never throwing and having quite a bit of success attacking away from him. Against SDSU he was nigh unblockable, bowling a veteran offensive line over backwards multiple times and drawing holding calls left and right. Craig Roh had two big plays and will show up doing little things when I do the UFR; Will Campbell had a couple of line-pushing plays. Hillman's YPC was still over five, so there are issues but I think a big chunk of them are localizable to…
Problems. So… everyone's talking up Jake Ryan, too. I'm with everyone in a general, long-term sense but a little less enthused about his performance on Saturday. One of the results of the first few weeks of UFRing/picture paging is that whenever the opponent tries to get outside I immediately focus on Ryan. Result from last week: three "aaargh Ryan" screams that no one in my section comprehended. He's still giving up the corner way too easy.
Also, there are two caveats to an otherwise encouraging performance from the secondary. One: Lindley and his receivers were flat bad as a group. Drops, bad routes, and bad throws artificially boosted Michigan's efficiency against him. Some of that was caused by pressure. Some of it was just a crappy opponent. Two: I wonder if Michigan's familiarity with the SDSU offense allowed them to beat the Aztecs' favorite routes into Michigan DBs heads.
Still, 5.3 YPA and actual depth at corner. +1 Mallory.
Offensive construction bits. Another week, another confirmation that running Denard is the offense. While I still groan whenever they line up under center, snaps from there were limited. I would really prefer it if they never ran I-form power on first and ten again, though. They've mixed in some inexplicably effective short play action so far; if they can't run that will probably dry up.
Things I liked: That screen to Smith. The essence of an RPS+3 is when three offensive linemen have no one to block for 30 yards. And then the much-discussed speed option debuted. I'd gotten a couple insider emails telling me it was part of the offense but thought it would be extremely bad form to publish that, so I'd been waiting. It was quite a debut.
I'm hoping we see Borges add wrinkles at the same rate Rodriguez did. He'll have to to keep the run offense ahead of the wolves. He's off to a good start.
via the Detroit News.
Tailbacks. I'm suddenly happy with Michigan's tailback situation after Vincent Smith made a lot of yards on his own, including the above touchdown where he kept his balance at about the five and managed to drag a safety into the endzone. There was also the zone play where he squeezed through a crack in the line it's possible literally no other D-I back would have fit through.
Toussaint, meanwhile, didn't have the yards Smith did but ran hard on the inside; I still like him best but understand if they're going to split duties between the top two. I feel bad for Shaw—maybe it's time to put him on kickoffs? He's got speed Smith does not.
The Denard question. So they did run a curl-flat. Denard went to the curl way late and threw his first interception. Not sure if that was schemed or just bad execution by the offense. If it's the latter that might be attributable to not running it over the offseason as Borges attempted to install his route packages, route packages that now seem like things Denard just can't do.
A three-point plan in an attempt to get Denard back on track:
- Stop throwing on the run.
- Provide some easy throws early—all hitch, snag—in an effort to get him calmed down.
- Develop some sort of counter-punch to the opponent getting all up in Denard's face on the rollout PA. A shovel pass?
Bending but not breaking. Michigan's giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Frankly, some of this is luck. They are acquiring turnovers at an unsustainable rate. Not unsustainable for a mediocre defense, unsustainable for Michigan 1997. When the well dries up they'll do some more breaking.
The other thing is the secondary. Michigan's newfound ability to make plays on deep balls and Jordan Kovacs being stone-cold reliable (so far /crosses self) have erased cheap touchdowns for the opposition. WMU's touchdown came on a 15-play drive. ND touchdown drives went 7, 10, 7, and 4 plays. San Diego State's took six plays but started from the Michigan 38. The only quick drive Michigan's given up all year was ND's desperation drive, on which Michigan gave up chunks on purpose because of the time situation and then tried an NFL-style defense they weren't ready for and blew it. The longest touchdown other than that was the 16-yard pass Lindley hit in the third quarter.
Opponents have ripped off chunks on occasion, but they have not been handed free touchdowns. Michigan's at least making them earn it. That's a necessary first step on the road away from completely awful.
The next opponent. When Minnesota managed to hang with USC on the first weekend of the season they seemed like they might be more intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Then they lost to Not Even The Good New Mexico and North Dakota State and seemed even less intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Compounding matters: Jerry Kill is again out of commission with his seizure issue.
I did not VOAV this week for reasons of being spooked. Boyz In The Pahokee provided the usual bounty if you are jonesing.
ST3 goes Inside the Box Score:
Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.
Wile's just lost his punting job; if that allows him to improve his kickoffs and compete for the field goal job, Michigan's kicking could be one of those strength things by midseason.
Lordfoul's weekly Hoke for Tomorrow:
Michigan needs Hagerup back.Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer. Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down. Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!).
Player participation notes from jtmc33.
You see that conch shell he's got in his hand? At some point in the first half he was talking into it like it was a cell phone. That is all.
Media, as in blog rabble. BWS hops aboard the Countess bandwagon and points out Denard can't throw.
MGoBlog : The Big Lebowski :: The Hoover Street Rag : The Hunt For Red October:
After the Notre Dame game, I tweeted very simply: "And the singing, Captain?" "Let them sing." The moment was too good to start worrying about the future. But at some point, the future arrives and you need to deal with it. How well prepared you are for that future plays a large role in how well you're able to handle it when the moment arrives. The non-conference schedule, particularly one played as four games at the start of the season should, theoretically, be a nice combination of challenges and the working out of kinks. Before the mission starts, you must know the capacity and capabilities of your crew.
Media, as in local newspaper. John Niyo on the defense, which is extant. Chengelis on the fact the team is not vintage. San Diego State had big pictures of their former coaches as signals. The Daily on RVB's Hillman chase:
Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen caught Hillman from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocked the ball loose for the second fumble.
Try reading it this way: a 288-pound defensive tackle caught the nation’s second-leading rusher from behind in the open field — 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.
Van Bergen got a block from fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mike Martin, but most of his help came from practice.
“But when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in our backfield,” Van Bergen said. “We get to play against (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson), so we’ve learned how to take angles at guys who have speed.
“I took off on my horse just thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before, maybe I can catch this guy.’ ”
“They were very emotional after the game, depressed, disappointed, upset, however you want to say,” said Long, whose team dropped to 3-1 after Saturday’s 28-7 defeat. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game and not in a good sense.”
They probably would have done a “poor job” of answering questions, Long said, so he kept them behind closed doors. “It’s my job to protect them,” Long said Sunday. “This is not pro football.” …
"The defense got shocked by the speed of especially one guy (Robinson),” Long said. “They got shocked by the strength they had up front and the speed of quarterback early in the game.”
• Offensively, Michigan is 13-for-13 on red-zone opportunities. It is one of 13 teams in the country to have scored on every trip inside the 20-yard line this year.
• Even better? The Wolverines have scored touchdowns on 12 of those 13 trips. That 92-percent touchdown rate trails only Texas Tech nationally.
One of the main arguments made in favor of Shotgun Forever is that red zone efficiency is not a stat that shows much repeatable skill year to year and that the huge chunks of yards Michigan picked up without, you know, scoring in 2010 would turn into points if you just left the damn thing alone (and got a kicker). The early returns are excellent.
National takes. Smart Football:
- Michigan 28, San Diego State 7. Brady Hoke’s new team faced his old team, and I’m still not sure, despite their 4-0 record, that we know anything about this Michigan football team. The defense seems to be improving under DC Greg Mattison, but they’ve been using so much movement and motion to cover up their talent weaknesses it’s unclear how the defense will fare against a polished opponent. And while the offense has found a better rhythm running a Rich Rodriguez-lite Denard Robinson attack — including Denard’s long TD run on the speed option — his passing line was abysmal: 8 of 17 for 93 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. He’s obviously uncomfortable in the new offense. He looked like a more polished and comfortable passer last year. I chalk some of this up to the fact that the very techniques he’s using are new, but he’s going to have to improve for UM to have success. That said, given Michigan’s favorable schedule — no Wisconsin and the easy part of the Big 10 schedule up next — we may not learn anything about Michigan until the last three weeks of the season, when they play Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.
No one else bothered. A couple weeks after puntosauring himself into a loss against Iowa State, BHGP documents Kirk Ferentz opening Iowa's game against ULM in a shotgun spread, demonstrating the Carr thing above perfectly.
Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen
Did you feel Mike Martin out there today? Van Bergen: “Oh yeah absolutely. Defensive line-wise, we probably had our highest production day. Obviously you have to watch the film to see how well we really performed. I thought Mike did a good job of getting after the quarterback, and when he wasn’t there, I was there, and then when neither of us was there, Craig was there. We did a really good job up front of getting to the quarterback. We didn’t register big numbers [in terms of] sacks or anything like that, but as far as QB hurries and pressures, I’d be interested to see that stat, because I felt like we were making him move his feet all day, which changed up some of his throws.
Is this the best you’ve played this year, and did you guys change anything in practice this week? Martin: “We didn’t change anything schematically. We had by far the best week of practice as a team collectively this week, and it definitely showed up on the field. I was interviewed earlier this week, and I said that the way we practice directly correlates with the way that we play. We started out fast on Tuesday, had a great day of work Wednesday to Thursday, then we tied it together on Saturday. It all ties together, and I’m glad we put it on the field today.”
A lot of sudden change situations in the fourth quarter. How did you respond to that? Van Bergen: “You know, we’ve been pretty solid on sudden change situations all season defensively. Not allowing a touchdown, holding them to a field goal when they get good enough field position for it. It’s something our defense prides ourselves on. We’re really intent that teams don’t get the best of us when we turn the ball over, because it’s going to happen. You’re going to turn the ball over, and the main thing is don’t let that translate into points, because that’s how you get beat. So our defense, that’s one of the things on our bulletin board. That’s on our wall. One of the things we have to be good at is sudden change situations. We pride ourselves on that.”
We’ve talked a lot about slow starts on defense. What was it about the first quarter that allowed you to get off to a fast start? Was it knowing the opponent better? Martin: “You know, that’s a part of it, but I like to say it was as simple as us coming out with the most intensity we’ve had in the first quarter this season. It’s something we have to remember that we did and build on that. It went right into the second quarter, and when half time came around, we made a few adjustments, but we came to play every single quarter. So we have to start fast and finish strong, which I think we did this week.”
Hoke said on Monday that the biggest aspect the team that he wanted to see improve was the play of the front seven. Did you agree with his assessment? Van Bergen: “Coach Hoke holds us to a very high standard. That’s something I said Monday at the Press conference. He’s going to have the highest standard of any defensive line in the country. We definitely don’t want him to lower the bar for us. I think Mike would agree with the fact that we haven’t played our best game up front. And I would probably go on to say this wasn’t our best game we could have played. We played better, but the standard is so high that any missed assignment, missed tackle, miscue, anything like that, or wrong alignment isn’t going to be tolerated until everything we do on every single snap is perfect.”
How were you able to keep Hillman in check and get two turnovers from him? Also, talk about forcing the fumble from behind? Van Bergen: “There’s a lot of parts to that question. [Hillman’s] a good back. We knew he was an explosive player, but I mean, when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in my opinion in our backfield, so we get to play against Denard. So we’ve learned how to take angles to guys with some speed. As far as that call, Mike actually was the one who sprung me on that as far as they were running a toss to the boundary side, and we were running a stunt where Mike was supposed to come up to the field first and I was supposed to loop underneath him. He picked the guy that was supposed to block me, and I just took off on my horse, thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before. Maybe I can catch this guy.’ Our corner did a good job of turning him back in. We’ve practiced that all the time. Two months ago, spring ball, that might not have happened. I don’t remember who the corner was, but he made him turn back in. We all know in pursuit drill on defensive line -- if you catch a running back, you throw your arms around him as hard as you can and you hope that ball comes out. It was a good break for us because if they score on that possession, game might have gone a little differently. It was fortunate … Mike definitely set me up on that.” [Ed-M: Van Bergen(+1) for UFR-ing]
Did you think Lindley was a different quarterback under pressure? Martin: “Yeah, that’s something that we talked about as a D-line and as a group. We knew that if we got in his face and got pressure to him, press the pocket down on him, he would get happy feet and make missed throws. He’s a good quarterback. He can sling that thing around. If you don’t get in his face, he can throw it as well as anyone. We made sure that was a big thing for us ... to push the pocket and do whatever we can to get into his face.”
Did either one of you sense this was a tough week for Hoke? Van Bergen: “I didn’t think it was a tough week for him personally. I think that there was definitely a media factor as far as it was hyped up to the fact that it was his old program. But I mean, college football is a transitioning world. Everybody moves around, so it just happened to be that they were on the schedule, and he didn’t treat this any differently. He had some inside information as far as how they would play as far as personnel, but nothing to the point to making it any different than any other week. We had to have an intense week of practice, which Mike said we did, and then have a four-quarter game, which, defensively, we came along. I won’t say we had it, but we had a better week than last week.”
Coaches say the goal is to win Big Ten Championship. How much do they talk about that now that non-conference is over? Van Bergen: “I would imagine the intensity is going to pick up. We had some pretty intense practices, but the way Coach Hoke has been talking about even through fall camp and his first four weeks -- it’s always been about the Big Ten. Everything is in comparison to the Big Ten. We have to play better or we won’t compete against the Big Ten. We have to be better up front or we won’t be able to play in the Big Ten. The Big Ten standard is higher than any expectation. In order for us to be competitive in the Big Ten the way coach wants us to be, we’re going to have to step it up. We want to be Big Ten champions. We haven’t had a good record in the Big Ten, anybody on this team, since we’ve been on it. It’s a big thing for us. We’ve started off 4-0 non-conference schedule, but to come out in the Big Ten and have a strong showing, that’s a big deal to us. I can tell you all the guys in the locker room are very excited and hyped up to get started in the Big Ten schedule and see what we’re really about.”
Even though you’ve been downplaying this storyline, is there a sense of pride in helping your coach beat a team he left less than a year ago? Mike Martin: “That’s not something that was on our mind. Our bottom line was to win the game. We have to win the game no matter what so we can go into the Big Ten ready to go. We always want to win for coach. We always want to win for Michigan and this program. It’s what it’s all about. It’s not about coach, and he’ll say that. He’ll say that [about] himself. It’s not about him. It’s not about me. It’s not about Ryan. It’s not about anyone except for Michigan and this program.”
I know you can’t see what other guys are doing on defense, but Blake Countess had a really good game. Talk about him? Van Bergen: “I think Blake is one of those guys that -- as a true freshman you can get some guys that get wide eyes when they come on the field. But there’s also guys -- he kind of reminds me of Donovan Warren when he first came in. He was very focused. He has a swagger about him, and he’s very confident in his abilities. I think the more reps he gets, the more time he’ll see just because he’ll prove that he can play. I think the coaches are slowly getting more comfortable with him and rotating him in. Unfortunately I think Troy went down. I don’t know if JT came back or not, but we had some guys that went down a little bit, and he stepped up. And that’s something we have as a team is the expectation by position. It doesn’t matter who you are. That position is expected to be played a certain way. Blake proved that today. He did really well.”
To what extent are the turnovers a result of playmaking mentality, and how much is it is just constantly running to the ball and hoping for something to happen? Van Bergen: “You know, I think it’s just the emphasis. We have such a strong emphasis from Coach Mattison and Coach Hoke, almost to the point where you don’t want to hear them anymore. Just turn them off in practice because they’re always talking about running to the ball, that the ball’s going to come out. If you count it percentage-wise, you’re probably not going to get a ball out too often, but when it does, man, it feels great. When you buy in like our defense has bought in, all of a sudden the turnovers start piling up for us. I think everybody’s starting to take notice that we’ve gotten way more turnovers this year at this point than we did last year and the last couple years because of how much we emphasize it and how much we practice it and how much we believe that if we get 11 hats on the ball, good things are going to happen.”
Craig Roh and Mark Huyge
How complicated is Rocky Long’s defense? Did it give you guys problems? Huyge: “Well they basically stunted on every play. They were taking the defensive end and putting him inside, wrapping the nose around, bringing linebackers off the edge. They were twisting and stunting. It helps because we ran the zone a lot -- inside zone -- and that’s where everyone pushes to one side. When you can do that, it kind of negates it a little bit, but they got us on a few I know for sure.”
Can you take us through the sack/fumble play? How good did that feel? Roh: “With the sack, they were running hurry-up, so I just subbed in for Jibreel Black and just bullrushed and then ripped outside and got the ball. It was a good feeling. It’s always a good feeling when you get a sack.”
Do you take coach’s criticisms of the defensive line personally? Roh: “We take it personally every week, but we’re improving every week and I think today was a pretty good performance defensively, especially with the run. But we need to keep improving every week, and we’re not where we need to be yet.”
What was the attitude on offense when you turned the ball over, and how do you get past that and not allow it to slow you down? Huyge: “We know that we have to keep pushing past that. It’s been nice not turning the ball over, trying to sustain consistent drives. But when it happens, it’s just an obstacle. It’s football and we know that. Just keep pushing on. That’s what we keep telling ourselves. It’s what we try to do.”
What was the difference between the Ryan Lindley you saw today and the Ryan Lindley you saw on tape after you got inside his head a little? Roh: “We were getting real good pressure up the middle with Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. I think it just rattled him a little bit and he didn’t perform as well as we had expected. He’s a real good quarterback, and we just got pressure on him and got him rattled a little bit.”
How important was it to establish Denard as a runner early in the game? Huyge: “Like Craig said, the emphasis this week was to start fast. The last couple of games we started slow and eventually picked it up. Getting Denard established early -- I think that gives the defense problems, and they have to adjust and get on their heels, and that’s always a good thing.”
This is the third straight game where you’ve had a turnover in the red-zone. What about inside the 20 makes you guys play up and what’s it like when you can get off the field without giving up any points? Roh: “It’s just, ‘Give us a place to stand and we’ll play.’ Coach Mattison’s always saying that, and I think all of us have taken it to heart.”
Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith
Talk about getting off to a faster start on offense? Denard: “That’s the thing that coach was preaching to us all week. All the seniors were just like, ‘Hey, we have to start taking off fast,’ so Tuesday practice everybody came out amped and ready to go.”
Denard, the option play with Vince was new. Do you like that play, and how long have you guys been working on it? Denard: “We’ve been working on a lot, and I wanted to give the ball to Vince, but I saw the opening and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ ”
Vince, talk about chemistry in running game. Smith: “With two backs, it’s a good relief off Denard, and me and Fitz pride ourselves in taking the load off him and helping this offense move down the field.”
Hoke said one of the things that surprised him was how much you guys like each other. Denard: “We all love each other. We enjoy being with each other. It’s like a family, so that’s what we pride [ourselves] on.” Do you guys talk about that with the new guys? “Oh yeah, that’s my brother, and we’re going to take you in. So when the freshmen came in, they knew that they had a family here.”
Did you guys see the defensive signal cards that SDSU was using? Denard: “We were laughing. Everybody was in that huddle laughing like, ‘Look at those things they got. They’ve got pictures of our coaches. That’s crazy.’ ” Smith: “Yeah, I was laughing as well.”
Do you feel like you need to take it up another level on offense to compete with Big Ten teams? Smith: “We know we just have to sustain drives and keep the ball flowing and get into rhythm.”
Fred Jackson has a reputation for benching running backs who fumble. What did it mean to you for him not to bench you? Smith: “It puts a lot of confidence in me, and I knew that I had to make up for what I did. Obviously I did, and he knows that I’m capable of doing that.”
Talk about run where you broke free. Smith: “The last one I scored on?” No it was in the first half. Denard: “He’s talking about the one you broke -- you kind of looked like you were stopped -- and I was like, ‘What?’ ” Smith: “It was a zone read, and I just pressed my gut, which coach J was stressing to us all through the week. It wasn’t there at first, but I was just patient on the read, and just squirted out -- it was a small, small hole, and I just squirted through it. I just kept my feet going and something good happened.”
What’s your frustration level with yourself in the passing game? Denard: “I mean, I’m not too mad at myself, because my teammates, they keep telling I’m going to be all right. Just keep going and keep fighting. They have my back, and I know they do.”
Did anyone show up to your birthday party after your tweet? [Denard bangs head on table.] Denard: “Oh man. It was a good crowd. We went out [to Colonial Lanes] bowling, having a little bit of fun. It was just … ” How many people do you think showed up? “I don’t know. I don’t know.” What did you bowl? “I bowled a 200 the first try. The second time I only went 160 and the next time I went 170. I did all right.” Why’d you just bang your head on the table there? “Because Twitter -- I don’t know if I want to keep tweeting. I don’t want questions coming up in here about that.”
Speaking of odd questions, did you switch helmet manufacturers this year? Denard: “Big Jon told us we had to wear a different helmet, and I got a different helmet. He just told me. I came in one day and he was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve got to get a different helmet.’ And I was like, ‘Ah, come on.’ ”
Why do you think you couldn’t get into rhythm passing? Denard: “[San Diego State is] a great team. They fly around everywhere. So you could say that, but still we worked on it all week and I just have to execute, that’s all. We have to get better as a team.”
Going for it on fourth and two, how big was it score before halftime? Denard: “Roy and the seniors were just like, ‘Man, look. We have to get this and we can’t slack.’ I was like, ‘All right, let’s go get it then.’ Coach called the time-out and he was like, ‘Let’s go and get the ball. Let’s go and get the first down.’ And that’s what we did. That was a big key to the game.”